Monday, September 21, 2009

Cape Point Lighthouses; South Africa

Did I mention that Nopi is a very keen pharologist??
Our next destination is no surprise....we are going to Cape Point (, a promontory at the south-east corner of the Cape Peninsula,

( , a mountainous and very scenic landform that runs north-south for about thirty kilometres at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent in the Republic of South Africa

This wind-battered, tip of land that ventures out into treacherous seas has some of the highest sea cliffs and freshest air in the world but it is not the southern most tip of Africa. This honour has been left to Cape Agulhas

Did you know that Cape Point is situated in the 22 100 hectare Table Mountain National Park, a natural World Heritage Site?

The circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope led to the establishment of a sea route to the East and subsequent trade.

Interestingly the South African Weather Bureau maintains a research laboratory here together with the Fraunhofer Institute of Garmisch, Germany. They monitor long-term changes in the earth's atmosphere which may impact upon climate.

Due to sandy soils, the area is unable to sustain a number of large animals and those that are present are not easily seen.

However, there is a wealth of insects, lizards, tortoises (including the Cape Angulate Tortoise), frogs and snakes such as the Puff Adder, Cape Cobra, Mole Snake and Boomslang.

Mammals include Cape Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboon, Rock Hyrax ("dassie"), Genet, Lynx, Striped Field Mouse, Cape Grey and Water Mongoose, and Cape Clawless Otter.

Eight species of antelope are also found here: Bontebok, Eland, Cape Grysbok, Red Hartebeest, Grey Rhebok, Steenbok and Grey Duiker. Klipspringers have been re-established recently after an absence of almost 70 years. The Whales can be spotted from June to October.

With its diverse habitats, ranging from rocky mountain tops to beaches and open sea, the Cape of Good Hope is home to at least 250 species of birds.

On land, the most notable species are ostrich and raptors like the Rock K estrel, Black-Shouldered Kite, Fish Eagle, Black Eagle, Spotted Eagle Owl and Jackal Buzzard.

"Bush birds" tend to be rather scarce because of the coarse, scrubby nature of fynbos vegetation.

When flowering, however, proteas and ericas attract sunbirds, sugar-birds and other species in search of nectar.

The Cape of Good Hope is an integral part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest, but richest of the world's six floral kingdoms.

This comprises a treasure trove of 1 100 species of indigenous plants, of which a number are endemic.

Two types of fynbos ("fine bush"), coastal fynbos on alkaline sands and inland fynbos on acid soils, are found. Characteristic fynbos plants include proteas, ericas (heath) and restios (reeds).

Some of the most striking and well-known members belong to the Proteacae family, of which up to 24 species occur. Many popular horticultural plants like pelargoniums, freesias, daisies, lilies and irises, also have their origins in fynbos.

One of the Cape's most famous legends involves a ship named the Flying Dutchman. In 1680, the vessel foundered whilst rounding the Cape in heavy weather.
The captain, Hendrik van der Decken, swore while his ship was sinking, that he would round the Cape if it took him until doomsday.
Some believe that he has kept his word, as over the years the Flying Dutchman is said to have been sighted on many occasions. Another well-known shipwreck is that of the Lusitania, which struck Bellows Rock in thick fog at midnight on 18 April 1911.

The remains of at least 23 shipwrecks lie along the coastline,
only five of which can still be seen - at Olifantsbos, Duikersklip, Hoek van Bobbejaan, Dias Beach and Buffels Bay. The remains of two wrecks near Olifantsbos can be reached from the beach. These are the Thomas T Tucker, which ran aground during World War II and the Nolleth, wrecked in 1965.

But we are here to visit the Lighthouses!

"The Point" has not been called the "Cape of Storms" for nothing and has therefore been treated with respect by sailors since it was first sighted by Dias in 1488.

By day, it was a landmark of great navigational value until the introduction of the radar. By night, and in fog, it was a menace. Ships had to approach closely to obtain bearings and thereby were exposed to the dangers of Bellow Rock and Albatross Rock.

In 1860 the first lighthouse was completed however, this light was often obscured by mist and fog.

Why walk when we can fly? We all hopped aboard the funicular ( and we were whisked away on a scenic trip to the view site near the old Cape Point lighthouse. The original lighthouse still stands on the highest section of the peak and is now used as the centralised monitoring point for all the lighthouses on the coast of South Africa.

Opened in December 1996, the funicular replaced the little bus named the Flying Dutchman operating the transfers from the lower station at 127mr (417ft) above sea level to the upper station at 214mr (702ft) above sea level.

In 1913 construction was started on the second lighthouse on Dias Point, some 87 meters above sea-level.

This second lighthouse was first lit at sunset on 11 March 1919, and remains the most powerful on the South African coast!!

The original lighthouse comprised of sixteen metallic reflectors which flashed a white light (2000 candle power) lasting twelve seconds every minute.

In contrast the new Cape Point Lighthouse is visible from a distance of thirty four nautical sea miles it emits a revolving light power of 10 000 000 Candelas.

WOW!! The views from here are absolutely spectacular !!!
Nopi, the pharologist is really ecstatic.........
Marti says " pharologist??"......hahaha, they are lighthouse nuts!!

btw, have you guys guessed where the 3 000 000th postcrossing card will travel to and from?

Hahaha, all of us think it will be between our home country and FI, DE or USA!!

Hmm, there are 200 countries...therefore several possible permutations .....I think the milestone will be reached on Thursday morning!

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