The Doubtful Sound

by wiggs66

the crooked arm of the doubtful sound

Thinking about how we name things: titles are key, but sometimes come hard. Here in NZ the Maori names for locations often seem to have more resonance, more poetry. For instance – Stewart Island, named for the first officer of a circumnavigating ship; or Rakiura (Glowing Skies) named for a spurned mythological chief’s blushes. I know which one I like, but essentially both are forms of ancestor notching…different tribes and their respective push across the sea.

But even when we name things prosaically we can goof to good effect. Thus, the Doubtful Sound which is not a sound in the geological sense, having been formed by glacial action and therefore in fact a fiord. It’s a beguiling error, especially in the mouth of our guide over the boat tannoy, with his deadpan, Bill Manhire ‘Hotel Emergencies’ tone: this is the sound the Doubtful Sound, which is not a sound at all. The doubtful monicker referencing Captain Cook’s opinion that the ‘sound’ might not have enough puff to blow his ship back out to sea, and so he carried on up the coast…

And for anyone that doesn’t know it, here’s the Manhire, which begins: ‘The fire alarm sound: is given as a howling sound. Do not use the lifts.‘ – http://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/hotel-emergencies