DAR­WIN IN CAPE TOWN

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Af­ter its voy­age via New Zealand and Aus­tralia, the HMS Beagle sailed into Ta­ble Bay on 1 June 1836. The ship didn’t stay long as it was only in Cape Town to re­plen­ish its food and wa­ter sup­plies be­fore the long jour­ney home to Eng­land.

Dar­win did get a chance to explore Ta­ble Moun­tain, Si­mon’s Town, Paarl, the Cape Flats, Fran­schhoek, Houwhoek Pass and Sir Lowry’s Pass. He made an im­por­tant ob­ser­va­tion about the rock for­ma­tions at the Sea Point beach in Cape Town. Here you can see how mil­lions of years ago molten gran­ite had flowed into the re­gion’s rock for­ma­tions. This helped broaden ­sci­en­tists’ un­der­stand­ing of ge­ol­ogy.

A com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque of Dar­win’s visit and ge­o­log­i­cal de­scrip­tion was mounted at Queen’s Beach, Sea Point in 1953. A sec­ond in­for­ma­tion sign, added in 2010, de­scribes the im­por­tance of the rocks here, as well as Dar­win’s visit, and in­cludes a sketch of the HMS Beagle. If you ever visit Sea Point, see if you can find it.

Rocks like these on South Africa’s south coast helped Dar­win re­alise how rock for­ma­tions can form from lava.

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