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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 45

Milford Sound

Milford Sound.

This romantic region has been often described by fluent and facile writers, and to those who have not had the pleasure of paying it a visit some of the descriptions given may appear to be bordering on hyperbole. But to those page 53 who have been privileged to behold its gorgeous grandeur, majestic wildness, and picturesque loveliness, no descriptive picture which has yet been produced of the place has given more than a faint indication of its wonders. If we were rash enough to allow our own pen to have full swing in this instance, our description of Milford Sound might be taken by sceptical readers as a mere florid flight, of fancy, having only a slight ground-work of fact to substantiate it. Those who flirt with the muse and dabble in verse are supposed to

"Have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind
To blow,"

and their opinions are generally taken cum grano salis Members of the "Black Brigade," on the contrary, are generally thought to be hard-headed matter-of-fact men, possessed of a very limited share of the imaginative faculty, and therefore, we will allow one of that honourable body to give his opinion on the Sound and its surroundings. We are quoting again from Mr. A. Bathgate's ably-written article to which we have previously adverted:—

"When we were fairly abreast of the entrance, the Mitre Peak (556O ft.) came into sight, and though fully 1000 feet lower than Pembroke Peak (6710 ft.), it is a fitting companion for the latter—standing as they do, one on either side of the entrance, as though guarding the Sound not merely from the ocean's waves, but from the winds of heaven as well. Where the passage between them lay it was hard to tell, and as we passed Anita Bay, it seemed as though we were steaming straight on to an unbroken cliff, till we suddenly rounded a point, and found we were fairly within the Sound. Slowly, very slowly, we glided onwards, passing between the bare rocky precipices of the Mitre, which, in the bright sunlight, wore every shade of purple, grey, and even yellow, on the one hand, and the darker cliffs of a spur of Mount Pembroke on the other; while ahead of us lay the grand craggy face of Mount Kimberly. The comparative absence of trees was a marked contrast to the other Sounds, and it was no doubt owing to this cause that the water here, instead of being a dark page 54 brown was of a beautiful bright, green colour There were numerous small waterfalls, but before we reached Mount Kimberly, we passed that known as the Stirling Falls, where a considerable stream shoots over a cliff 400 feet high, and, falling into the water, raises a mist of spray at the foot. We scarce had eyes, however, for the beauty of the waterfall, as before us rose Mount Kimberly like a dark wall. Sailing close beneath this giant precipice, we looked up as it towered 2,500 feet above our heads, and seemed as though it might fall and crush us. Its dark, shadowy face was brightened by a few trees, which clung to a small ledge on a level with the vessel's deck, mid whose leafy coverts the bell bird sang, and by the rays of the sun catching and illuminating as with an aureola of glory a bush or two of scrub which grew upon the cliffs topmost edges. It was almost a question whether the impression derived was a pleasurable one or not, for the stupendous grandeur of the mountain was almost oppressive. As we gazed upon the glorious scene, its sublime and infinite majesty enabled one to understand in some degree the Earth Spirit of the German poet, when he says—

Thus, at the roaring loom of time I ply,
And weave for God the garment thou see'st him by.

That mighty cliff preached a sermon on the greatness and power of the Almighty Creator more eloquent and more impressive than any ever uttered by the tongue of man.

"Slowly onwards we sailed, passing the bush-covered shoulder of Mount Kimberly, which is known by the name of The Lion, till we stopped in Harrison's Cove, where a boat was lowered and the photographers and some of the artists went ashore. As we lay there we were surrounded by one of the grandest panoramas of majestic mountains that it is possible to conceive. Looking back, the way we came seemed closed by massive mountains—there towered the stony peak of the mighty Mitre; close by, Mount Kimberly's precipitous face frowned darkly over the green water; nearer, the tree-clothed slopes of The Lion lay bathed in sunlight. Then turning towards the cove, there rose from the wooded valley the expansive snow fields and page 55 dark precipices of Pembroke Peak. The snow of the highest fields was of a dazzling white; but where it lay like a glacier in a huge hollow, its freshness and purity were sullied by the earthy impurities gained in its descent. This snowy glacier descended low into the valley, so low that it did not merely meet the green bush, but extended well down into its wooded recesses. The dusky tinge borne by the snow was thus in some degree retrieved, but still it lacked the beauty of the summer blue in an icy glacier. The view of Mount Pembroke from this point is finer than its aspect from the sea. Turning our eyes from this grand prospect, the bare precipices of the Benton and Barren Peaks (5,195 ft.) next met the view, while from the comparatively low ground between them, the Bowen Falls [unclear: eap] downwards 540 feet, their white waters descending into a small piece of level bush. Beyond this lies the valley of the Cleddan River, where, away beyond the nearer wooded spurs, Mount Christina lifts its snow-crowned head 8,100 feet into the blue heaven. Between the valleys of the Cleddan and Arthur Rivers stands the bold and rocky Sheer Down Hill, He who conferred the title upon this huge mountain must evidently have been in a facetious frame of mind, for though there is no doubt about its meriting the epithet of sheer-down, rising as it does like a wall from the salt water basin, so that not even a goat could obtain a foothold, yet it does seem a misnomer to speak of 3,500 feet of solid granite as a hill, even in the presence of mountains of twice the height. Then turning further round Mount Phillips which hid the Arthur Valley stood between Sheer Down Hill and the Mitre. The lower part of Mount Phillip is wooded, but the summit is bare and rocky, and like the majority of the other mountains by which we were then surrounded, it preserved in many a hollow patches of snow.