This was very nearly Karl’s obituary.
Ignoring the weather reports of rain and low cloud, I headed to the famous Milford Sound. After camping at Lake Gunn and waking to mist and fog and gloom, I was psyched to find the skies clear in time for me to do the scenic Milford Road and get to the dock for my scenic cruise with Real Journeys, one of several companies that move hordes of tourists up and down the sound (which is really a fjord, as far as I can tell).
I was feeling pretty cocky… I’d gotten my cruise ticket for 50 percent off thanks to a coupon I got when I rented my Spaceship, I scored a spot on the 11 a.m. booking, which is less crowded than the 1 p.m. (that one is dominated by tour bus tourists), and against the odds, or at least the forecast, the skies were brilliant blue and cloudless.
Then, tragedy struck.
I was taking a picture of Karl with Mitre Peak in the background when he just popped off my fingers and dropped overboard. Overboard!! I watched him fall in slow motion and land on the edge of the bottom deck before sliding into the inky blue water of the harbor.
For a half second I thought of jumping in after him. Instead I ran to the nearest crewmember, who told me they had neither hook nor net to wrangle him back aboard as he drifted toward the rear of the boat.
I realized as soon as the engines started, he would be sucked into the propellers and shredded.
No, not Karl!!
Then, a stroke of luck… the wake of another boat coming in pushed Karl away from the propellers and further into the harbor.
Immediately two gulls landed beside him and looked him over. I was torn between being horrified, imagining him eaten or pecked to pieces, and guessing what the two gulls thought of him:
“Hey, Ernie, what the hell is that?”
“Gee, Tony, I dunno. Is it anything?”
“Eh. Nah. Fuhgeddaboutit.”
The gulls flew off without despoiling poor, helpless Karl and I realized he was now drifting towards a jetty that curved around the outer edge of the harbor. I ran back to the crewmember and asked her if I could get off (the boat was due to leave in two minutes), run to the jetty and try and get him. She asked the captain, who was standing there and said “be quick about it.”
As I set off, another crewmember said “I’ll get the net!”
Aha! They had a net after all…
Anyway, Graeme (Graham?) the linesman grabbed a net and ran with me to the jetty. He was the one who actually pushed through the bushes and grasses, over loose rock, and scooped Karl to safety while I stood there taking photos of the rescue (old journalist habits die hard… even as I was worried about missing the boat/excited that Karl might not sink to Davey Jones’ locker, I was thinking “photo op! photo op!”).
Graham (Graeme?) handed Karl over and we raced back to the boat, arriving just at 11:00.
Karl spent the rest of the cruise in my zippered pocket. Once ashore again, I dried him off in the hand dryer of the bathroom… he’s okay, though smells slightly of fish.
The cruise itself, after all the drama of Karl’s near-burial at sea and subsequent rescue, might have been unimpressive had it been anything other than Milford Sound in perfect weather with New Zealand fur seals and pods of bottlenose dolphins on hand.
Milford Sound, in case you have never seen a postcard of New Zealand, is that iconic stretch of deep blue water framed by impossibly steep and picturesque forested mountains, usually shown with Mitre Peak in the middle, named by Europeans for its apparent resemblence to a bishop’s mitre but considered by Maori as a “symbol of manliness.” It’s big, it’s kinda pointy on top. You get the idea.
In any case, my photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the place, but you can get a taste of the fantastic, glaciated views I saw while standing on the deck, a damp Karl in my pocket.