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Milford Sound in Science and Popular Art

sir james hector

Sir James Hector

Over the years, Milford Sound has become a focus of both the scientific and popular culture communities. While scientists have been keen to explore its geological offerings, artists have focused on drawing in tourists, depicting its beauty, and even using it as an axis for satirizing politicians. Exploring Milford Sound in science and popular art is a must-do for those who want to learn more about the area and its significance.

Scientific Explorations of Milford Sound

Through a combination of geology, the climate, and the wildlife there, Milford Sound has presented plenty of opportunities for scientists to explore and unearth its natural wonders. One of the earliest explorers was James Hector. As a man who initially graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in medicine, Hector wasn’t at first destined for geological exploration. However, some of his extra curricular activities turned him towards this field, causing him to unearth a lot of what the world knows about Milford Sound today.

In Dunedin, 1865, Hector displayed the maps he’d formed of Fiordland, featuring Milford Sound. As one of the only scientists to work for the government at the time, he was perfectly positioned to highlight Milford Sound and its geographic offerings. Later, other scientists would come to build on his work. Milford Sound was featured in a 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, and officially became listed as a ‘tourist attraction’.

Today, scientists and conservationists continue to see Milford Sound as something of a natural wonder. The Department of Conservation continues to track the wildlife there, while highlighting where visitors can and cannot go to camp.

Milford Sound in Modern Pop Art

Following a gathering of quaint oil and watercolour paintings of the area in the 19th century and early 20th century came a convergence of pop artists wishing to depict it in a more modern light. This included the work of Howard Leon Mallitte, who created his famous ‘Milford Sound: New Zealand’s Fiordland’ in the 1960s. Using a combination of vibrant colours and thick strokes, this painting is true to the psychedelic ethos of the 1960s.

Around 1935, George Frederick Thomas created a tourism poster depicting a young couple soaking in Milford Sound’s atmosphere from a boat. Commissioned by the New Zealand department of tourism, this was one of the earliest attempts made by the government to draw travellers there. However, it was only ever set to build on the 1900-1903 postcards by Muirs and Moodie, which captured Milford Sound in its most basic form.

Later, in 1975, the New Zealand tourism board combined hand painted imagery with photographs to up the anti on its tourism campaign. Featuring Mitre Peak rising inside a sketched tree, the campaign built on the global love for sunshine that individuals worldwide seemed to love at the time.

Modern Cartoons Featuring Milford Sound

Not to be outdone by prior works of art, the cartoon world has also had a stab at capturing Milford Sound’s beauty. Many of these cartoons have been constructed around political satire, including images of Prime Minister John Key stood with construction workers in the Milford Sound and Fiordland area. Similarly unflattering images take a stab at Minister for Conservation Nick Smith, who advocated for a mono-rail, but no Milford Sound tunnel.

As the scientific and popular at worlds move on, so does the way in which scientists and artists approach Milford Sound. With increasingly modern approaches come new takes, which are only set to diversify further.