New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

We knew our lovely expedition on board the Clipper O ended as we sighted Mitre Peak and were offloaded onto a smaller boat that carried us to the commercial harbor. Milford Sound, as well as Dusky Sound, are part of the wonderful Fjordland National Park and thus under the jurisdiction of “dear old DOC.” There is a hotel (many years old) at the docking area and the terminal building has been completely rebuilt since we were here last in 1987. No other commercial concerns have been allowed to develop in the Park, thanks to do the good “DOC.” I didn’t mention it before but there is an electrical power plant in Dusky Sound but it predates DOC’s jurisdiction as well. Otherwise, the huge Park with all its marvelous fjords is not diminished by human intrusions.

Homer Tunnel

This fabled tunnel has eased the way for travelers between Te Anau and Queenstown beyond that and Milford Sound. It is an estimable engineering feat and has certainly opened up this part of Fjordland National Park since its opening in 1954. The tunnel was started in the 30s during the Depression when workers were put to the job of blasting through the solid granite of Homer Saddle, a pass through the Main Divide Mountains. Doesn’t this remind you of our CCC workers during the US Depression? There were many problems with the construction of the Tunnel, the most debilitating ones having to do with rock fractures and snow avalanches. Work on the Tunnel was halted during World War II and then it was finally completed and opened in 1954. At the time and for many years after, it was the longest bare granite and gravel- surfaced tunnel in the world. It is just short of a mile long and traffic is controlled by stoplights at either end since the passage is only 1- ½ lanes wide. A bus & a car can pass side by side, but two buses cause great consternation and difficulty. It is pretty sure that Homer Tunnel is NOT under the direct control of DOC even though it is in the National Park; the Department of Roads, Bridges and Tunnels is the caretaker for the tunnel. I only mention the wonderful tunnel because it was at the entrance to its opening we had our last wildlife sightings

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