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Doubtful Sound (discovered by Captain Cook in the 1700s) is the deepest and second largest fiord in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. It’s a vast and breathtaking wilderness of rugged glacier-carved mountains, carpeted with dense and bountiful rainforest, which is broken every now and then by a spectacular waterfall thundering into the water below. Its three distinct winding arms and numerous islands set this fiord apart from its sisters. As you make your way slowly and expertly through the fiord you may catch a glimpse of some of its famous residents – the bottlenose dolphins and fur seals – as they play in the pure water. Keep your eyes peeled too for the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin often found on the small islets at the entrance to the fiord. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity as you drink in the sheer scale and beauty of this place and marvel at the power of Mother Nature.
Doubtful Sound is part of New Zealand's Fiordland National Park and is one of its most famous tourist destinations. It is a large and majestic fjord located on the south west corner of New Zealand, close to Milford Sound. It is a rugged and mountainous area with a picturesque coastline, and is almost entirely covered in bush.
Doubtful Sound is home to Bottlenose Dolphins and they are a key resource of the Tourism industry in Fiordland. There is recent comprehensive research that this tourist activity is not sustainable and Unsustainable dolphin-watching tourism in Fiordland quot; - Lusseau et al) The research discusses "the plight of the three small populations are the southernmost resident populations of the species and are therefore subjected to higher environmental stress compared to life at high latitudes (Schneider, 1999). The research finds that a about 10% of dolphins surveyed bear marks of physical injuries caused by boat strikes.
There are hundreds of waterfalls during the rainy season, notably Helena Falls at Deep Cove, and the Browne Falls which have a fall of over 600 metres. The Sound is also home to a population of bottlenose dolphins which interact with boat tours. Other wildlife includes fur seals, penguins and an abundance of sea creatures.
Sometimes called ‘the Sound of Silence’, there is an isolated serenity within Doubtful Sound that contrasts with Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is the second largest fiord in Fiordland , a World Heritage Site that includes Milford and Dusky Sounds which cruise ships will cruise by. Ironically, Doubtful, like Milford and Dusky, are all fiords, but were incorrectly termed sounds by Captain Cook who charted the region in the 1770’s. The word ‘Sounds’ subsequently appeared on maps and remains to this day.
At 421 metres deep, Doubtful is the deepest of the fiords and is long and winding with three distinct ‘arms’ and several outstanding waterfalls in the area from Deep Cove to the open ocean, a distance of around 40.4 kilometres.
The three distinct arms to the sound are all to the south of the main fiord. From the major conflux of water just south of Secretary Island, these arms are:
First Arm
Crooked Arm which is roughly halfway along the sound
Hall Arm which branches off from the Sound’s terminus at Deep Cove
The Sound is the site of several large waterfalls, notably Helena Falls at Deep Cove, and the Browne Falls which have a fall of over 600 metres. The steep hills are known for their hundreds of waterfalls during the rainy season.
The last quarter of the sound closest to the sea is dominated by islands, the major one being Secretary Island. At the southernmost tip of the island, Doubtful Sound opens up as a confluence of 5 bodies of water. From the western seaward end and going clockwise these are:
Seaward end of Doubtful Sound, sometimes known as "the gut"
Thompson Sound
Bradshaw Sound
Continuation of Doubtful Sound to Deep Cove
First Arm
Access to the sound is either by sea or by the Wilmot Pass road from the Manapouri Power Station. Most areas of the sound itself are accessible only by sea, however, as the road network in this area of New Zealand is sparse or nonexistent, as is the human population.
Charles John Lyttelton, 10th Viscount Cobham, Governor-General of New Zealand (1957–1962) wrote about this part of Fiordland:

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