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Kalk Bay Harbour

The small fishing village of Kalk Bay, nestled between the mountains and the sea, is only a 30 minute drive from the centre of Cape Town yet a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.The village of Kalk Bay was probably established in the 17th century as a small community of lime-burners who used kilns to extract lime from the sea shell deposits for use in the construction of buildings. mined the nearby deposits of limestone. Its name was derived from the Dutch term for lime. In 1795 the Dutch located a small military outpost here, and after 1806 it began to flourish as a fishing village and whaling station.In the 1840's a Philippine ship was wrecked off Cape Point and many of the sailors settled in Kalk Bay adding substantially to the small fishing community that had developed. Over the years some Philippine sailors deserted from ships visiting the Cape joined them as well as emancipated slaves from the East Indies. These Philippine settlers were Catholic and had to row by boat to Simonstown for mass leading in 1858 to the St James Catholic Church being built nearby and of course giving the name to the area next to Kalk Bay in later years. In later years a small mosque was built (located between Gatesville and Quarterdeck roads) by the Malaysian community that had also settled in the area.Certainly Kalk Bay's next 'great event' was the arrival of the railway line in May 1883. Previous to the railway line Kalk Bay was already a favourite spot for wealthy Cape Town business men from Wynberg and Rondebosch but the railway brought teeming crowds and the development of the fishing industry. In February 1862 Mrs Ross, an English visitor to the Cape, described Kalk Bay as: "... a little fishing hamlet, consisting of a few old-fashioned Dutch houses, and a dozen or so of fishermen's huts straggling for a mile between the rocky beach, and the precipitous mountains that rise up almost immediately behind it. It is accounted a very healthy place, and is the favourite resort of well-to-do people ..." Cecil John Rhodes was of course the most famous person who had a holiday cottage here and it can be visited today as a museum. Such was the growth that in 1895 Kalk Bay became a municipality and encouraged non-fishing families to settle in the area. The increased population brought with it the resources to build the Silvermine Reservoir in the mountains above Kalk Bay as well as water borne sewage.In 1890 the railway line was extended to Simonstown. This controversial decision had a major impact on the Kalk Bay community particularly the fishing community as the railway line cut through the middle of Fishery Beach. This resulted in the winter storms smashing the fishing fleet against the stone viaduct and in May 1898 half the fishing fleet was lost as a result of a particularly bad storm. Steel gantries were constructed as a temporary measure and a new breakwater and slipway was built between 1913 to 1919. Once the harbour was built the entire character changed. Steam-trawlers and other vessels safely docked in the harbour. Fish was railed from Kalk Bay up to the rich markets of the Transvaal and Kimberley.In 1902 a Marine Aquarium and Research Station (the first in South Africa) was established in St James and it was here that Prof Gilchrist did valuable research that helped establish the Sea Fisheries Department. The Marine Aquarium was demolished in 1954. Kalk Bay has one of the last remaining working harbours in South Africa with a fishing community proud of their heritage. It is a community has remained intact throughout South Africa's turbulent history, the only place in the country where all residents successfully opposed the Group Areas Act of the 1960s. Many famous South African families lived in the area or had holiday homes here including Count Labia.With its narrow cobbled streets, boats returning to the harbour at noon with the day's catch, interesting shops and 20 restaurants, the village has something to offer everyone.

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Taken on July 12, 2007