Cape Town Places

Signal Hill

by on May.26, 2012, under Cape Town

Signal Hill aka Lion’s Rump, is a landmark flat-topped hill located in Cape Town, next to Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.

The hill is also known as “The Lion’s Flank”, but this term is obsolete. Together with Lion’s Head, Signal Hill looks like a lion sphinx.
A view of the Kramat towards Lion’s Head from the Signal Hill hiking trail

Signal flags were used to communicate weather warnings as well as anchoring instructions to visiting ships in order to ensure that they prepared adequately for stormy weather while in the bay. Similarly, ships could use flags to signal for assistance if, for example, an anchor line parted during a storm.

It is known for the Noon Gun that is operated there by the South African Navy and South African Astronomical Observatory. In 1836, a time ball was set up at the Cape Town observatory, however it was not visible to ships in the harbour, so a second time ball was erected on Signal Hill in order to relay the precise moment of 1pm Cape Mean Time. In this way ships in the bay were able to check their marine chronometers. The daily practice of dropping of the ball continued until 1934, when it was made redundant by radio signals.

The guns on Signal Hill were used to notify the public when a ship was in trouble and there was a possibility of casualties on the coast near Cape Town. Three guns would be fired from Chavonnes Battery, followed by a single gun in answer from Imhoff Battery.

There is a road to the summit and that vantage point provides spectacular views over Cape Town and surroundings, especially at dawn or sunset. Along Signal Hill Road one can also find the Appleton Scout Campsite owned and operated by the South African Scout Association.

Signal Hill is one of the only places in the world where critically endangered Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation can be found. Peninsula Shale Renosterveld used to be the dominant ecosystem of the Cape Town City Bowl, but was completely endemic – occurring nowhere else in the world.

Urban growth has now covered most of this ecosystem and – along with a tiny patch on Devil’s Peak – Signal Hill has the only surviving sample of this vegetation in the world.


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