By Simon Pooley (auth.)
Read or Download Burning Table Mountain: An Environmental History of Fire on the Cape Peninsula PDF
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Extra resources for Burning Table Mountain: An Environmental History of Fire on the Cape Peninsula
This, together with the development of the settlement and farming – with attendant attempts to regulate ﬁre use – probably reduced burning below the northern and eastern slopes of Table Mountain. However, we know from contemporary descriptions that large mountain ﬁres higher up on the eastern and northern slopes of Table Mountain were a seasonal commonplace throughout the period of Dutch rule. These ﬁres were attributed to the carelessness of slaves and to vagrants. Lack of labour, tight controls by the VOC and infertile soils meant many of the ﬁrst European farmers at the Cape turned to livestock farming, learning to burn the veld to replenish grazing from the Khoikhoi.
Mentzel also provides one of the ﬁrst descriptions of a major bush ﬁre on Table Mountain. Referring to Peter Kolb’s book about the Cape (of 1719), he conﬁrms that he too saw Kolbe’s ‘carbuncle’ and ‘crowned serpent’ on Table Mountain at night. He explains that these are descriptions of bush ﬁres, which he attributes to the spontaneous combustion of dry bushes by solar rays concentrated on Table Mountain through reﬂection off Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. The burning bushes resemble Kolbe’s ‘carbuncle’, and where a ﬁre spreads upwards from bush to bush, a ‘crowned serpent’ appears.
The Scot combined scientiﬁc argument with missionary zeal and Victorian moral disapproval. He drew on examples of deforestation and desiccation attributed to ﬁre observed among the Tswana, north of the Cape Colony, and in Barbados and Jamaica. Brown was well aware, and professed himself saddened, that veld burning was not just an African and Boer practice but also one applied by British settlers. )’. He lamented the destruction of indigenous species, describing mountain slopes near Wynberg (now a southern suburb of Cape Town) covered with silver trees (Leucadendron argenteum), yellow pincushion (Leucospermum conocarpodendron) and other fynbos shrubs, which had been ‘burned and blackened, killed by ﬁre’.