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September 06, 2008

Spectacular seas

Cape Town lies in Table Bay, which, contrary to popular misconceptions, is north and west facing. Storms from the South and East generally don't affect the shipping or the bay waterfront that badly, however, when a storm comes sweeping in from the west or north it is a different matter as the picture below demonstrates. This is shot on the seafront at Mouille Point, the western arm of Table Bay itself, and the pavement is usually a good twenty feet above the sea level.

Sea foam is flung into the air and over the roadway on Cape Town's Mouille Point in the storm that swept across the Southern and Eastern Cape coast.

Cape Town is on the Atlantic side of the Cape Peninsula, a fact you soon discover when you try swimming at any of the western beaches. That water is COLD. The water temperatures on the other side of the Peninsula, in the Indian Ocean are at least 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer.

The main road along the front to Sea Point awash during the storm. As a small child my parents used to bring me to the park near here (Which was also covered in foam) to play.

These storms are infrequent this far north, they generally sweep through the Great Southern Ocean along the belt of the Fortieth Parallel (Cape Town is around 33* 55' South) in what is known, with good reason, as the Roaring Forties. Every few years though, the air streams slip north and the result is these spectacular storms. So far there have been no reports of ships in trouble as a result (None I have heard anyway!) and the conditions produced in this weather on the continental shelf produce seas known locally as "Cape Milestones" - essentially a rogue sea that is double normal height and has a huge hole in the ocean behind it. This is a ship killer of a sea and has seen the destruction of a number of tankers, buk carriers and even the passenger liner Waratah in the early twentieth century.

It lends meaning to the old adage "God help sailors on nights like this!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at September 6, 2008 02:30 PM

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