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black southeaster inspiration

Pale pink vygies after the storm


The combination of a howling black south-easter and spring tides sends raging walls of water crashing over the sea-wall at Kalk Bay harbour in September 1983.

Picture : John Yeld, The Argus.


A rather chilly spring has blown into summer with yesterday’s almost-gale-force black southeaster. Although nothing compared to the beast of 1983, it howled loud enough to fry my nerves to a frazzle, unsettle the dogs and caused the cat to finally have a nervous breakdown. The southeaster, I am told, is a fairweather or trade wind that originates from the South Atlantic High (SAH) pressure system, moving southwards in summer as the westerlies retreat polewards. If you want to know more about things like the deep southeaster and the shallow southeaster, visit

Oh, the joys of the internet!

All Capetonians know the legend of  a villainous Dutch pirate called Jan van Hunks who lived at the foot of the mountain around the 1700s – a prolific pipe smoker whose wife chased him out of the house whenever he felt the need to light up. One day he met a mysterious stranger (who also smoked) on the slopes of Table Mountain. A contest ensued to see who could smoke the most – Van Hunks won, and the stranger turned out to be the Devil. To this day, whenever the southeaster blows, the Devil of Devil’s Peak and Van Hunks continue their challenge, each time obscuring the top of Table Mountain with their pipe smoke as they try out-do one another.

Photo essay: Clouds on Table Mountain – Blog – Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

Photo courtesy Globe Trodden

The splendid tablecloth is part of an orographic cloud formation (see below), which normally forms during the summer months when Cape Town’s south to southeasterly winds push moist air against the mountain’s slopes. As the air rises, it cools, causing the relative humidity to increase. The moisture then condenses to form the world-famous tablecloth.

The image below is of an orographic cloud formation, from a downwind zone behind the Île Amsterdam, in the far southern Indian Ocean.


Orographic lift – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

“A gravity wave cloud pattern—analogous to a ship wake—generates a wave motion in the wind passing over it, creating regularly spaced orographic clouds. The wave crests raise and cool the air to form clouds, while the troughs remain too low for cloud formation. Note that while the wave motion is generated by orographic lift, it is not required. In other words, one cloud often forms at the peak.”

 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Map of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands in the Indian Ocean

Photo courtesy david.gill12

The infamous black southeaster sometimes inspires South African music –  Black South Easter is a group of five musicians who incorporate elements of afro-soul, dubrock, dance and reggae into their music. Vocalist Nhoza Sitsholwana, guitarist Dan Boshoff, bass player Jimi Curve, drummer Jerry Mbowa and violinist Carly Nauta mention that “… the band takes its name from the cleansing winds that blow across the Cape and bring in the fresh air that revitalizes and uplifts…”

Hmmm… certainly not while it’s blowing, but on the day after a storm the air is indeed purified and crystal clear, as its nickname of the Cape Doctor suggests.

Black South Easter | Presenter.

E’s main concern after the Big Blow was the vineyard and the very new and fragile bunches of grapes with chartreuse berries the size of pinheads. After a full inspection today it looks as if most of them survived with not too many trossies shriveled up or blown off.

The summer vineyard is a feast for the eye on a clear day like this, with intense colours splashed everywhere.

And maybe I wouldn’t have noticed and experienced it so intensely it if it wasn’t for yesterday’s wind.

Even the view from my studio looks new today – the last of the season’s arum lilies a proud sentinel among masses of nasturtiums, geraniums and vygies. The nasturtiums and vygies are in their final blooming phase and I drink in their saffron, flame and ruby hues while it lasts.

Happy creating!

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Comments (2)

OMG! Is that you garden and vineyard on that slope Willemien? Always such a treat to read your posts… learn so much about your part of the world which I adore!

yip, it is! i feel very fortunate to live in such an inspiring part of the world.

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