Thursday, July 11, 2019

The end of Africa

Michael - Thursday

Many tourists believe that Cape Point—south of Cape Town—is the southern tip of Africa. They climb to the view site and imagine that they can see where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. It's a mistake many people make. It can be costly.

East Indiaman
On the fourth of April 1815, the Arniston sailed in a convoy of nine ships—seven East Indiamen and two escorts to keep pirates at bay. They were headed around the Cape of Good Hope to St Helena and home to England. The Arniston did not have a chronometer, which was critical to calculate latitude, and became separated from the convoy in bad weather as they rounded Cape Agulhas, which is the true southern tip of Africa. When land was sighted, the captain assumed that it was the Cape of Good Hope. He headed west for the rest of the day and then turned north, thinking that now he was headed for St Helena. The ship ran aground and all of the 400 people on board lost their lives except for six who managed to reach the shore. They tried to reach Cape Town, but realised their mistake. Luckily for them, a farmer discovered them. The ship is commemorated in the picturesque fishing village of Arniston.

Southern Cape

Where oceans meet

Cape Agulhas itself hosts a small town and from there a road leads to a parking lot and a short walk to a plaque marking the southern point. A lighthouse overlooks it, built 33 years after the Arniston met its fate. Over the years it has helped many ships round the southern point of Africa, amidst the winds of the roaring forties and the conflicting currents that meet there.
One the lighthouse couldn't save

Iconic map of Africa
Although there is a special feeling to standing at the end of a continent and in viewing the rocky coastline from the top of the lighthouse, a recent highlight is something man-made. Opened in March of this year, it consists of an eighteen metre relief map of Africa in bronze. With its tip pointing to the plaque, it allows you to walk around Africa, spotting the major mountain ranges and tracing the major rivers. It's fun but also a special marker and reminder of the connection of this point to the rest of our continent.

The end of Africa

1 comment:

  1. What a spectacular post, Michael. Even the man-made map. As for the sailors described in your second paragraph, we have a few of them up here just across the "bay" from Northern tip of Africa.