Table Mountain - Encyclopedia

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TABLE MOUNTAIN (Dutch Tafelberg), a name frequently given in South Africa to flat-topped hills and mountains, there a characteristic feature of the scenery. Occasionally such hills are called plat, i.e. flat, bergen. Specifically Table Mountain is the mountain which arises behind Table Bay, in the Cape Peninsula, Cape Town lying at its seaward base and on its adjacent lower slopes. The mountain forms the northern end of a range of hills which terminates southward in the Cape of Good Hope. The northern face of the mountain, overlooking Table Bay, extends like a great wall some two miles in length, and rises precipitously to a height of over 3500 ft. The face is scored with ravines, a particularly deep cleft, known as The Gorge, affording the shortest means of access to the summit. East and west of the mountain and a little in advance of it are lesser hills, the Devil's Peak (3300 ft.) being to the east and Lion's Head (2100 ft.) to the west. Lion's Head ends seaward in Signal Hill (t too ft.). The western side of Table Mountain faces the Atlantic, and is flanked by the hills known as The Twelve Apostles; to the south Hout's Bay Nek connects it with the remainder of the range; on the east the mountain overlooks the Cape Flats. On this side its slopes are less steep, and at its foot are Rondebosch, Newlands, Wynberg, and other residential suburbs of Cape Town. The ascent of the mountain from Wynberg by Hout's Bay Nek is practicable for horses. The surface of the summit (the highest point is variously stated at 3549, 35 82 and 3850 ft.) is broken into small valleys and hills, and is covered with luxuriant vegetation, its flora including the superb orchid Disa grandiflora and the well-known silver tree. The Kasteel-Berg (Castle Mount), a northern buttress of the mountain, has its own peculiar flora. Table Mountain and its connected hills are famous for the magnificence of their scenery. The kloof between the mountain and Lion's Head is of singular beauty. The view from the summit overlooking Table Bay is also one of much grandeur.

The south-east winds which sweep over Table Mountain frequently cause the phenomenon known as "The Table-cloth." The summit of the mountain is then covered by a whitish-grey cloud, which is being constantly forced down the northern face towards Cape Town, but never reaches the lower slopes. The clouds (not always caused by the south-easter) form very suddenly, and the weather on the mountain is exceedingly changeable. The rainfall on the summit is heavy, 72.14 inches a year being the average of twelve years' observations. This compares with an average of 54.63 inches at Bishop's Court, Newlands, at the foot of the mountain on the east and with 2 5.43 inches at Cape Town at the northern foot of the mountain. The relative luxuriance of the vegetation on the upper part of the mountain, compared with that of its lower slopes, is due not only to the rainfall, but to the large additional moisture condensed from clouds. The result of experiments conducted by Dr Marloth (Trans. S. Afrn. Phil. Soc. for 1903 and 1905) goes to show that during cloudy weather the summit of the mountain resembles an immense sponge, and that this condensation of moisture considerably influences the yield of the springs in the lower part of the mountain.

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