10 Interesting facts about Cape Town
1) Cape Town was originally named by Bartolomeu Dias as the Cape of Storms. This was because of the terrible storms he had to endure on the East Coast of Cape Town. It was later renamed as the Cape of Good Hope, to please the king of Portugal. The change was made to give the impression that the cape provided hope for a sea route to the East.
2) The median age in Cape Town is 26-years-old, with almost half the population less than 24-years-old.
3) Although it’s the youngest official language in the world, Afrikaans is most widely spoken and is home language for 40% of the Cape’s population. The remainder of the population speaks either Xhosa or English as a home language.
4) The Table Mountain National Park alone has more plant species within its 22 000 hectares than the whole British Isles or New Zealand. The Cape Floral Region is one of the richest areas for plants than any similar sized area in the world. Unesco’s World Heritage Committee declared the 553 000 hectare Cape Floral Region to have “outstanding universal significance to humanity”, describing it as “one of the richest areas for plants in the world”
5) There was a time when the whole of Cape Town’s main road, Adderley Street, was made out of wooden blocks or tiles. These tiles were eventually covered with the tarred road that we have today. If one visits our very interesting Cultural History Museum in Cape Town a display of these wooden tiles can be seen.
6) Queen Victoria Street, the avenue leading up from the Supreme Court to the planetarium in Cape Town, ends in a short climbing hill named Grays Pass. According to the Roads Surveying Department of the Cape Town Municipality, this ‘mountain pass’ was surveyed in 1898 along with the Company Gardens and is still on official record as a ‘mountain pass’ – at approximately 250 meters long and extending a climb of approximately 50 meters from bottom to top it is officially the shortest mountain pass in South Africa and therefore also in Cape Town.
7) We all know that most big cities of the world are situated on rivers. London is on the Thames and Paris is on the Seine, to mention a few. The question is “Is Cape Town situated on a river and if so what is it called.”? The answer is “Yes” and it is called the Fresh River. This is a river that comes off the slopes of Table Mountain and runs through the Company Gardens. It can be seen at the gates of Tuynhuys just off Government Avenue. The river then travels down underneath Adderley Street and continues to the Waagenaar reservoir below the Golden Acre. The river might be a small one relative to those quoted above, but never the less exists.
8) In Cape Town we have a cannon, called the Noon Day Gun, that is fired every day, except Sundays, to signal 12pm/Noon. This is the oldest living tradition in Cape Town. The two cannons that are fired daily have been in continuous use since 1806 when they were first fired at sunset.
The tradition of the midday firing is derived from a Dutch East India company practice, which continued for over 200 years, when a gun was fired at 6am and 9pm to signal the start and end of each day. From 1865 it was fired at 1pm. Only since 4 August 1902 has it been fired at noon, from Lion Battery on Signal Hill above Cape Town.
9) On a daily basis most Capetonians pass or see Signal Hill from wherever they are in the city. There are little of them that know why it is called Signal hill though. The reason is because in bygone years a signalman was permanently stationed on the mountainside which has a great vantage point over the whole of Table Bay. The signalman’s duty was to warn the castle of the approaching ships that were coming into the harbour. When ships were sighted a coded system of flags and cannon shots were used to provide the relevant information about the ship as well as it’s nationality. Amongst others a shot was fired for every ship that was spotted and a flag was hoisted at the same time of the shot being fired. When the ship was visually identifiable a red flag was hoisted if it was an enemy vessel attacking the harbour. This signal brought every man to the harbour so as to defend the shoreline.
10) Dr Christiaan Barnard, at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, performed the first human heart transplant in the world in 1967. He was also the first to do a heart-lung transplant in 1971.
March 25, 2010 at 9:46 pm