Walking down Long Street around noon I cannot help but giggle to myself at the reaction of tourists when they hear a loud bang at exactly 12pm. People will stop dead in their tracks, shocked, looking around to figure out what exactly it is they are experiencing. Unfortunately, people are made very aware of South Africa’s problem with crime before they arrive. In all honestly we do have a problem, but once you arrive to study English in our beautiful city you will realise that just like any international hub in the world, you must act responsibly and look after your belongings.
Back to the loud sound resembling a gun shot that reverberates through our city every Monday to Saturday at exactly noon. What you are hearing is in fact a cannon being fired from the top of Signal Hill. This tradition has been going since 1864 when it became possible to trigger a gun remotely and has been fired from the master clock of the oldest timekeeper in the country, the South African Astronomical Observatory. According to Wikipedia on a day in June 1895 a spider interfered with the relay used to remotely fire the gun, which made it go off at 10:30! This created much confusion in the city for a few minutes. Again on January 7th 2005 both the main gun and backup gun failed to fire owing to a technical difficulty. This was the first time in 200 years that the noon gun had not fired as scheduled. The guns (there are two in case one fails) are two of the oldest still in daily use in the world.
www.sa-venues.com writes: “Today, the Noon Day Gun is yet another of those little idiosyncrasies that sets Cape Town apart and makes her such an exciting place to visit, and you can watch the daily ritual up on Signal Hill at Lion Battery, from 11:30 (except on Sundays or public holidays).”
It is said that you can pride yourself on being a true Capetonian when you don’t flinch at the loud boom anymore. However I can attest to the fact that caught off guard in the vicinity of Green Point at noon I may have, I admit reluctantly, jumped a little and looked around for the culprit. So during your first few days in Cape Town don’t fret too much when you hear it. Turn your head towards Signal Hill, look for the smoke rising from the guns and know that you are in a truly remarkable city, modern, cosmopolitan and yet traditional in a heart-warming way.