From natural beauty to tunnel visions in Fiordland
Activities abound in the vicinity of New Zealand’s spectacular Doubtful Sound
AS we file off the boat that has brought us across Lake Manapouri in New Zealand’s South Island, a flash of orange feathers greets us. Dumpy, one of the local keas, flies in. The bird paces along the guttering of the visitors’ centre, eyeing up another group of packladen tourists.
Peter the bus driver calls us away from the avian scoundrel who would like nothing better than to slice his way into our picnic lunches.
En route to Doubtful Sound the bus climbs Wilmot Pass. It was built in 1963-65 to take the massive transport trucks that carried construction materials from Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound to the Manapouri hydro-power station.
The road winds around high, bush-clad cliffs, wrapped in mist and shaggy with moisture-laden foliage. Then a window of blue sky appears in the clouds with a mountain peak floating in the middle.
The weather changes frequently during the trip and we get many different views of the area, ranging from mysterious, deep and moody to blasting bright sun and clear skies. Trees furry with lichens, moss and epiphytic ferns look like deer antlers in velvet. Moss gardens spill a palette of greens, yellows and russet red over the rocks. Washed by the spray of miniature waterfalls, the gardens glint in the light.
Local weavers and embroiderers have drawn inspiration from WHAT’S to be done with 500 measles, mumps and rubella vaccines that are approaching their expiry date? Toss them out with the rubbish, or use them to immunise whole villages at risk of succumbing to these potentially deadly diseases?
This was the conundrum faced by Jenny Clapham, a senior nurse with P&OCruises Australia, as she took stock of medical supplies on Pacific Jewel while preparing to sail off on a tour of duty in the South Pacific earlier this year.
‘‘She emailed to say she had a large number of MMRvaccines and they were expiring at the end of the year,’’ recalls Alyson Ottley, these rich natural displays, Peter informs us.
Many of the mosses are in fact liverworts. I find out later that the striking red one is Isotachis lyallii, which grows in high rainfall areas. In another spot, tiny greenhood medical operations manager at Carnival Australia, the company that operates P&OCruises.
‘‘It was unlikely that they were actually going to be used on the ship in the next eight months, and she thought they could have gone to a better home rather than sitting on the ship and not being used. So she got the ball rolling.’’
The timing was perfect, for the ship was headed for a place where beauty and disadvantage can be found in equal measure: the islands of Vanuatu, whose largely rural population has quite limited access to quality health care.
The country’s economy is based on subsistence and smallscale farming; while malaria is its most prolific health hazard, orchids perch, bending their white and green striped heads above the spongy ground cover. Southern rata blooms orange further up in the canopy near rimu, southern and silver beech.
The mosses, liverworts, lichens measles is listed as another disease of concern by the World Health Organization.
Vanuatu’s public health authorities gratefully accepted the cruise company’s offer, and Clapham and her colleague, senior doctor Rudolph Schramm, presented the consignment to Ministry of Health official Maleb Anicet on the dock at Port Vila.
It was an effortless yet effective contribution on the part of a company whose guests are guaranteed access to highly specialised health services while at sea.
‘‘Medical centres on ships are set up like small hospitals — they have to be prepared to treat passengers and crew with [any condition] that comes through the and tough little colonising shrubs did the essential groundwork required for the forest to grow in this precipitous World Heritage wilderness. They hold moisture against the rock as it weathers and crumbles, turning into soil. door. Our medical department is very aware of its public health responsibilities, so we do carry a number of vaccines on the ship for passengers and crew,’’ Ottley says.
‘‘[But] the medics on board do also have a sense of responsibility to the people they visit. There are a lot of Polynesian crew on the ship and to be able to give something back to their country was amazing.’’
The donation is part of a broader collaboration in which P&OCruises Australia works with Pacific island governments and communities to ensure that the local population benefits from the cruise ship trade.
The programs encompass sustainable environmental practices, infrastructure work and
From Deep Cove, the two-hour boat trip through Doubtful Sound to the sea is visually awe-inspiring and informative. Waterfalls pour down the cliffs; we see the effects of fault lines and tree avalanches and hear how glaciers carved out the fiords around 18,000 years ago. A pod of bottlenose dolphins plays around the boat, swooping in close to the hull. Further on at the entrance to the sound, fur seals and pups loll on the rocks of Nee Islets.
On the way back, the boat stops in a cove for us to experience the quiet of the world as it may have been 10,000 years ago. Apart from a few birdcalls the three minutes of silence we achieve is unbroken.
The return trip on solid ground plunges deep into the dark interior of the mountain below Lake Manapouri. The bus descends a spiral tunnel 2km below the surface to a power station. Granite walls streaked with gneiss and quartz crystals glisten in the headlights as we reach the entrance of the stimulation of the local economy through programs that develop business and employment opportunities.
To this end, the cruise company works in partnership with groups such as AusAid and Australian Business Volunteers.
‘‘Cruise ship visits to the Pacific islands currently deliver about $35 million in economic benefit annually with the combined direct spending of P&OCruises and its passengers,’’ Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry says.
‘‘This economic contribution is likely to increase to $50m annually when the multiplier effect for tour operators and other shoreside activities is taken into account. Within 10 years, the direct economic contribution and the powerhouse. A memorial plaque states: ‘‘Sixteen men lost their lives in the deadly darkness, where they laid explosives without light for safety reasons.’’
The first tunnel was excavated by drill and dynamite. They used a 25m-long, 1500-tonne tunnel boring machine to make the second tunnel with no loss of life.
Some have likened the machine hall to a James Bond movie set, and it is certainly impressive. From a viewing platform we look down on a row of seven blue exciters that boost the generators. A guide talk provides plenty of facts and figures to get our heads around. The hydrostation uses the height difference between Lake Manapouri and the sea to provide the necessary amount and force of water to drive the turbines. The exhaust water then exits in Deep Cove.
Among the display of 3-D models and photographs, hard hats fly off heads as justice minis- multiplier effect could well be as high as $150m annually.’’
And while the long-term effects of the vaccine distribution cannot be calculated in the same way, Ottley is nonetheless determined to continue aiding communities in need.
‘‘I’m certainly looking for opportunities in the future where we can do similar projects, especially in Vanuatu, which is a developing nation,’’ she says. ter Ralph Hanan detonates the final blast in the first tunnel, which had been over-packed with dynamite. It’s a fascinating window into the stories and a process that was both an engineering achievement and a watershed for environmental awareness in New Zealand.
The upper world of sun, sea and bush around Lake Manapouri has been relatively unspoiled and Dumpy the kea is there to send us on our way.
The two-hour boat trip through Doubtful Sound is visually awe-inspiring
P&O Cruises Australia’s Rudolph Schramm and Jenny Clapham present Vanuatu official Maleb Anicet with the company’s gift