Saturday, May 14, 2016

Milford Deep

Milford Sound, New Zealand (Jun 3, 2008)

The fishes in the small photo below are Butterfly Perches, which are one of the many species living in the waters of Milford Sound. The white “branch” in the background is instead the very rare black coral (which is actually white, or bright colored, the black moniker due to the color of its skeleton). Black corals live only at great depths, but in Milford Sound can be found closer to the surface because of the unusual darkness of its waters. The steep walls of the mountains in the fiord are rich in vegetation, but lack soil. As a consequence, the rain washes all organic matters directly in the sound, which is rich of tannin. That makes the water very dark, and allows the growth of the black coral.

Butterfly perches and black coral
The photo was not taken in an aquarium, nor we did scuba diving. We would have liked to (we even brought our masks along, but time (lack of) and a persistent congestion prevented that. Plus the New Zealand seas are quite cold all year round, and we were in winter. We however did see the marine life of Milford Sound in its natural setting. The Milford Discovery Center and Underwater Observatory is a floating cylinder of concrete that is immersed over 10 meters deep in the sound. From its windows 12 cm thick it is possible to see the wildlife as you would see it from the window of a submarine. The observatory (which is built like a floating “tank” and as such doesn’t have any ecological impact on the fragile ecosystem of the sound) is exactly the opposite of an aquarium: the wildlife outside the window is completely free, its the people that are stuck in a “air” tank.

Milford Sound, New Zealand (Jun 3, 2008)

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