Intro to Cape Point
History of Cape Point
Named the ‘Cape of Storms’ by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488; the ‘Point’ was treated with respect by sailors for centuries. By day, it was a navigational landmark and by night, and in fog, it was a menace beset by violent storms and dangerous rocks that over the centuries littered shipwrecks around the coastline.
In 1859 the first lighthouse was completed; it still stands at 238 metres above sea-level on the highest section of the peak and is now used as the centralised monitoring point for all the lighthouses on the coast of South Africa. Access to this historical building is by an exhilarating three-minute ride in the wheelchair-accessible Flying Dutchman funicular that transfers visitors from the lower station at 127 metres above sea-level, to the upper station.
Cape Point is in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve within Table Mountain National Park, which forms part of the Cape Floral Region, a World Heritage Site. It includes the majestic Table Mountain chain, which stretches from Signal Hill to Cape Point, and the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula. This narrow stretch of land, dotted with beautiful valleys, bays and beaches, contains a mix of extraordinarily diverse and unique fauna and flora.
Cape Point has a long and colourful history, largely due to the search for a sea route to the East, instigated by Prince Henry the Navigator.
Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was the first to round the Cape Peninsula in 1488. He named it the “Cape of Storms”, for the notoriously bad weather, which can blow up quickly. A decade later, Vasco da Gama navigated the same route and sailed down the coast of Africa, successfully opening a new trading route for Europe with India and the Far East. King John II of Portugal later renamed it the “Cape of Good Hope” because of the great optimism engendered by the opening of this new sea route to India and the East.
‘The Point’ has been treated with respect by sailors since it was first sighted by Dias in 1488. By day, it was a landmark of great navigational value until the introduction of radar. By night, and in fog, it was a menace. Ships had to approach closely to obtain bearings and thereby were exposed to the dangers of Bellows Rock and Albatross Rock. And so the lighthouse was built. The original lighthouse was built in 1859 on Da Gama Peak, the summit of Cape Point, 238m above sea level. This made it very ineffective in mist which mandated the establishment of the second lighthouse at 87 meters. The newer lighthouse, built in 1914, is the most powerful on the South African coast. It emits three flashes in a group every 30 seconds and revolves. The old lighthouse still stands here and is now used as a centralized monitoring point for all the lighthouses in South Africa.