Tour Locations | Upper Cableway Station Audio Guide: Tabletop Walking Tour
West Coast View: Maritime History
NARRATOR: Straight ahead, you'll see a web of intersecting paths. Just keep going straight, past the stone block. Here’s Justin.
JUSTIN: On any given day, Table Bay will be dotted with vessels at anchor, mostly cargo and container ships waiting to enter Cape Town harbour. You can probably see a number of ships right now. Cape Town has always had an intimate relationship with the Atlantic. It’s not for nothing that the city is also known as The Tavern of the Seas, a meeting place of two oceans and famous port of call for ships from around the globe. The first European explorer to round the Cape was the Portuguese Bartholomew Dias in 1488. He opened the door for Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route to Asia. Vessels of every shape and size followed, first Portuguese, but soon Dutch, French and English, all plying and squabbling over this rich trade route. Cape Town was seen as a perfect halfway stop and ideal for a refreshment station. It was first settled by the Dutch in 1652, then conquered by the English a century and a half later. Given its strategic importance, this anchorage had to be defended. The shores of Table Bay and Robben Island were repeatedly fortified, never more so than during the Napoleonic and World Wars, when fears of attack by French, and later Germans and Japanese, were at the forefront of military planning. Today, all is peaceful at the southern tip of Africa, except when a winter gale brews up and the Cape of Storms lives up to its fearsome reputation. At such times the combination of an angry Atlantic and rocky shoreline can inflict as much damage on shipping as any of Napoleon’s square-rigged three deckers.
NARRATOR: Carry on following the pathway.