West Coast

 

Front pages

 Contents

Preface

Whether you live here or just happen to be passing through, the many facets of the West Coast leave an imprint upon each of us, giving us a ‘sense of place’ – the sum of all that we take in from our surroundings. Through a series of illustrated essays that touch upon various aspects of its natural history, this book provides a guide for those intrigued by the wonders of the West Coast. From the beaches of the Cape Peninsula to southern Namibia, and inland as far as the Cederberg Mountains, the West Coast is a region of diverse landforms, plant and animal life, climate and history. On a stroll along the beach one can encounter folded bedrock 560 million years old, dune sand 5000 years old, shell middens 1500 years old, and seaweed stranded on the last high tide. This book explores how the many habitats and life forms have evolved through time, including the increasingly large impact that we are having on the West Coast.

 

Chapter 1    West Coast Defined

 

Power of place – 11 The building of a continent – 14

Malmesbury shale – 18 Granite intrusion – 22 Gaps in deep time – 29

Cape Supergroup – 32  Breakup and the Great Escarpment – 39

An old, eroded surface – 42 Hardgrounds and soft – 48 Earthquakes – 52

Submerged landscapes – 55 A Mediterranean-type climate – 59

Rivers – 64 Salt – 68  Beaches – 70  Dunes – 74

Langebaan Lagoon – 78 Diamonds, pumice stones and volcanoes – 82

 

Chapter 1 excerpts: click photo to download pdf

 

Chapter 2    West Coast Living Landscapes

 

A thin veneer – 88 Life at sea – 90 Life along the shore – 94

Life in the lagoon – 97 Plants past – 100 Plants present – 103

Rhinoceros bush, grass and large animal herds – 106

Sandstone mountain fynbos and dust – 109 Afromontane forest – 111

Succulent Karoo shrublands – 113 Mystery of mysteries – 115

Animals before people – 119  Human arrival – 122  Animal turnover – 125

A seafood diet – 128 First people – 130 Pastoralists – 134 Europeans – 138

Decimated and dispossessed – 142 Man the hunter – 145 Demise of the hippo – 152

 

 

Chapter 2 excerpts: click photo to download pdf

 

Chapter 3    West Coast Redefined

 

Welcome to the Anthropocene – 155 Arrival of the British – 159

Darwin at the Cape – 163 A need of water – 165 A need of food – 169

Guano wars – 171 Overkill – 172 The total want of wood – 175

Power to burn – 177  A need of shelter – 181   Iron – 186

Reconfigured landscapes – 190 Aliens – 194 A garden city – 197 Rewilding – 201

Global warming – 204 A new world – 207

 

 

Chapter 3 excerpts: click photo to download pdf

© John S. Compton

John S. Compton
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John S. Compton
Earthspun Books logo