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Table Bay

Cape Town & Table Bay  © Brian Snelson, License

Table Bay

Although the Cape was first explored by Bartolomeu Dias in the late 1400's it was on in 1652 that Cape Town was founded by the Dutch explorer, Jan Van Riebeek. And during this period the natural bay on the west coast of South Africa, just north of the Cape Peninsula, was named Table Bay. The bay was named after one of the country's most well know landmarks, Table Mountain.

Table Bay was one of the few places along the west coast that could harbour ships, but during the 17th and 18th many of the ships that were anchored in the bay were driven ashore by storms. The bay offers, little if any protection from the gale force winds which batter the coastline from both the South East and the North West. The Dutch however continued to use the bay as the other options were not viable at the time. Saldanha Bay which was much further up the West Coast was a good option but had no fresh water, and closer to Table Bay the other two options, Simon's Bay and Houtbaai were harder to access at the time and only slightly more protected than Table Bay itself. In 1858 a serious storm blew 30 ships ashore, completely wrecking them and killing many sailors. It reached a point where the British company, Lloyd's of London, refused to insure any ships in Table Bay during the winter months. It was this move that almost forced the British Colonial Government to start construction of the first breakwater in 1860. This over the years became the Victoria and Alfred Basin, Table Bay's first safe harbour. Today the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront preserves parts of the harbours history.

Table Bay also has a very important feature, especially to South African History. Robben Island can be found in the waters of Table Bay, the island where former president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades. The Island is visible from shore or can be visited using the Robben Island Museum Tour.

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