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Table Mountain
Western Cape, South Africa
 Earth's Natural Wonders in Africa
Elevation 1,086 m (3,563 ft)
Type Sandstone
Age of rock Silurian/Ordovician
First ascent António de Saldanha, 1503

  

Since it's opening in 1929, over 16 million people have taken the trip to the top of Table Mountain. The Table Mountain cableway has since become something of a landmark in Cape Town, and has carried some of Cape Town's most illustrious visitors. [2]

 

Table Mountain Slideshow
Table Mountain [1]

 


Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park.

The main feature of Table Mountain is a level plateau approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) from side to side, surrounded by steep cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil's Peak to the east and by Lion's Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town and its Table Bay harbour, and together with Signal Hill form the natural amphitheatre of the City Bowl.

The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Maclear's Beacon, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey. It is 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) above sea level, about 19 metres (62 ft) higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau.

The cliffs of the main plateau are split by Platteklip Gorge ("Flat Stone Gorge"), which provides an easy and direct ascent to the summit and was the route taken by António de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503.

The flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain's slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called "table cloth" of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest.

Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula. To the south of the main plateau is a lower part of the range called the Back Table. On the Atlantic coast of the peninsula, the range is known as the Twelve Apostles. The range continues southwards to Cape Point.

The original name given to the mountain by the first Khoi inhabitants was Hoeri 'kwaggo ("sea mountain").

History

Prehistoric people first left evidence here more than 600,000 years ago. Evidence tools of these Early Stone Age hunter-gatherers were found in a depression near the Cape of Good Hope. The Middle Stone Age inhabitants (dating from 200,000 to 40,000 years ago) also left evidence of their life on the Peninsula. Fossils from around 8000 BC indicate that by that period the inhabitants of the region had developed bows and arrows which they used to hunt.

San (or Bushmen) hunter-gatherers relied on the seashore for most of their food. This resulted in the Dutch naming, Strandlopers (beach combers). About 2000 years ago the Khoikhoi migrated from the north, displacing the San, bringing with them their herds of cattle and sheep. It was the Khoikhoi who were the dominant tribe when the Europeans sailed into Table Bay.

António de Saldanha was the first European to land in Table Bay. He climbed the mighty mountain in 1503 and named it 'Table Mountain'. The great cross that the Portuguese navigator carved in the rock of Lion's Head is still traceable.

In 1796, during the British occupation of the Cape, Major-General Sir James Craig ordered three blockhouses to be build on Table Mountain: the King's blockhouse, Duke of York blockhouse (later renamed Queen's blockhouse) and the Prince of Wales blockhouse. Two of these are in ruins today, but the King's blockhouse is still in good condition. and easily accessible from the Rhodes Memorial.

Between 1896 and 1907, five dams, the Woodhead, Hely-Hutchinson, De Villiers, Alexandria and Victoria reservoirs, were opened on the Back Table to supply Cape Town's water needs. A ropeway ascending from Camps Bay via Kasteelspoort ravine was used to ferry materials and manpower (the anchor points at the old top station can still be seen). There is a well-preserved steam locomotive from this period housed in the Waterworks Museum at the top of the mountain near the Hely-Hutchinson dam. It had been used to haul materials for the dam across the flat top of the mountain. Cape Town's water requirements have since far outpaced the capacity of the dams and they are no longer an important part of the water supply.

The mountain became part of the new Cape Peninsula National Park in the 1990s. The park was renamed to the Table Mountain National Park in 1998.

Fires are common on the mountain. The most recent major fire came in January 2006, destroying large amounts of vegetation and resulting in the death of a tourist. A charge of arson and culpable homicide was laid against a British man who was suspected of starting the blaze.[3]

A time lapse movie of Table Mountain shot over a period of one day.

 

czaduck
December 15, 2006

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References
 
1. Flickr-Table Mountain-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 10/12/2009
2. South Africa Venues-Table Mountain-retrieved 10/12/2009
3. Wikipedia-Table Mountain-retrieved 10/12/2009
4.
 
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