The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
CAVE ROCK – DURBAN
Most Durbanites would not have heard of ‘Cave Rock’, and this is not surprising, for Cave Rock no longer exists. Well – as a landmark, tourist attraction, natural wonder and picnic spot it no longer exists – but as a pile of rocks it does, for it was dynamited in the 1940’s by the South African War Department. Only in South Africa, and perhaps quite particular to Durban, where any feature of interest, any building of heritage or any name historic is dismantled. It is a wonder that the Bluff still exists.
For many hundreds of thousands of years this large sandstone formation stood proudly at the Bluff headland, witnessing the centuries rolling on like the ocean waves. It was there that Christmas Day in 1497 when Vasco da Gama sailed up the coast in his rickety wooden carrack the 178 ton Sao Gabriel, looking for his route to the East. It was standing like a sentinel in 1685 when the sailors of the ironically named ‘Good Hope’ were wrecked at Rio de Natal (Port Natal). They built a hut on the south shore near the outcrop until being rescued the following year. Also, familiar with this formation were the tribe called the Abakwa Luthuli “People of the Dust’ who used the Bluff which they called IsiBubulunga as a refuge from King Shaka’s marauding Zulu impi and thus survived his ‘Mfecana’. Meticulous mapmaker Lieutenant King would most certainly have recorded it in 1823 during his survey of the Bay and surrounds. It was there in 1824 when 20 year old settler and pioneer Henry Ogle built his kraals and homestead atop the Bluff. Each morning at sunrise and waking he would have seen the landmark below on the shoreline.
And so it was for all those early Durbanites – who could also visit the mound for a look-see, a family picnic and the opportunity to take a scenic photograph. For no citizen of this maritime city considered himself one until he had perched himself like a rooster atop this pile, or had cowered chicken-hearted beneath the the arch of the cave at low tide.
Like a bulwark it managing to withstand the pounding of a myriad Indian Ocean waves, but not the decision of the pratt who determined that it blocked the trajectory of the gun placed at the headland to protect the Port of Durban from German u-boats during World War 2. Would it not have been easier to simply move the gun emplacement? If the ‘Tommy Atkins’ were able to drag a naval gun to the top of Inkwelo Mountain in Northern Natal during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, then there is simply no excuse. I hope the name of this person can be ascertained so that it can be established like a monumental adjective to idiocy.
Cave Rock can be seen in this painting at the headland of the Bluff.
Cave Rock is marked on this map as the dark spot just off the tip of the Bluff.
(above) A remarkable photograph of the headland to the Bluff, with the remnants of Cave Rock still visible as a pile of rocks.
(above) A drawing of Cave Rock by the Durban artist Cathcart W. Methven, 1891.
(above) Cave Rock by the South African artist Maggie Loubser.
(above) A surrealistic landscape painting of Cave Rock by Gabriel Cartwright Marks, 2017. Gabriel is a scholar at Durban High School. It is evident from this provocative painting that this landmark (although long gone) exerts a fascination in the minds of Durbanites, long after its destruction.
(above) Cave Rock photographed in 1913.
(above) A photograph of Cave Rock being pounded by heavy surf.