Doubtful Sound, New Zealand (2015)
I had the privilege of venturing on a cruise of Doubtful Sound, New Zealand, this past summer. To get to Doubtful Sound, you have to take a boat across Lake Manapouri, cross the narrow and winding Wilmot Pass on a bus, then board the cruise of the sound. While tourist companies have made this famously-inaccessible place quite accessible, it’s still one of the most remote and untouched places one can go in this world. In Doubtful Sound (which is actually a fiord), the faces of the mountains plunge at amazing degrees into the water below. Waterfalls, rainbows, fur seals, penguins, and dolphins abound.
One of the most special parts of the trip happened when the captain of the boat turned off the engine, told everyone not to use their cameras and not to say a word—to let us experience the true sound of the fiord. All signs of civilization are silenced in the fiord: No highways. No machinery. No televisions. No clicks of the camera. No crowds. Only the noise of waterfalls rushing down the walls of the fiord and the occasional bird or splash.
I know this is sort of the boat captain’s “party trick” to make tourists awed and amazed —and the scenery alone was enough to do that—but I refuse to be cynical about it, because it was really special. How often do we think about what the world would sound like without humans? Or pause to hear nature as it is—no more, no less? There are so few spaces left in the world, outside the vast oceans perhaps, where humans can go that simply exist like this, making their own noise of praise, whether we hear it or not.