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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Simon's Town

Simon’s Town, a town and station of the British navy in the Cape province, South Africa, in 34° 15′ S., 18° 30’ E., on the shores of Simon’s Bay, an inlet on the west side of False Bay. It is 22½ m. S. of Cape Town by rail and 17 m. N. of Cape Point (the Cape of Good Hope). Apart from the naval station the town (pop. 1904, 6642) is an educational and residential centre, enjoying an excellent climate with a mean minimum temperature of 57° and a mean maximum of 70° F. Owing to the influence of the Mozambique current the temperature of the water in the bay is 10° to 12° F. higher than that of Table Bay, hence Simon’s Town and other places along the shores of False Bay are favourite bathing resorts. The naval establishment is the headquarters of the East India and Cape Squadron.

In 1900 the yard covered about 13 acres, exclusive of the victualling establishment and naval hospital, and was provided with a small camber, slipways for torpedo-boats and small vessels, together with various dockyard buildings, storehouses, coal stores, &c., but had no dry dock or deep-water wharf. Under the Naval Works Loan Act of 1899 £2,500,000 was provided for the construction of additional docks east of the original naval yard. These works were begun in 1900 and completed in 1910. They consist of a tidal basin 28 acres in extent, with a depth of 30 ft. at low-water spring tides, enclosed by a breakwater on the eastern and northern sides and a similar projecting arm or pier on the west. The entrance to the basin faces north-westerly, and is 300 ft. in width. South of the basin is a large reclaimed area forming the site of the new dockyard. Opening from the basin is a dry dock, 750 ft. in length on blocks, with an entrance 95 ft. wide and having 30 ft. over the sill at low-water spring tides. The foundation stone of the dry dock was laid in November 1906 by the earl of Selborne, after whom it is named, and the dock was opened in November 1910 by the duke of Connaught.

The Selborne dock can be subdivided by an intermediate caisson in such a manner as to form two docks, respectively 400 ft. and 320 ft. in length, or 470 ft. and 250 ft. in length on blocks, as may be required, or the full length of 750 ft. can be made available. The dockyard buildings include extensive shops for the chief engineer’s and chief constructor’s departments, the pumping-engine house, working sheds, &c., while ample space is reserved for additional docks and buildings. Berthing accommodation is provided in the basin alongside the wharf walls which surround lt. The walls available for this purpose have a total length of 2585 ft. lineal, are constructed of interlocked concrete block work, with an available depth of water of 30 ft. at low water, and are furnished with powerful shear-legs and cranes for the use of vessels alongside. Extensive sheds for the storage of coal are provided. The whole of the dockyard area (35 acres), including the enclosing breakwater and pier, was formed by reclamation from the sea; and the total area of the new works, including the tidal basin, is 63 acres.

False Bay, which corresponds on the south to Table Bay on the north side of Table Mountain, is a spacious inlet which has an average depth of from 15 to 20 fathoms, and is completely sheltered on all sides except towards the south. Here a whole fleet of the largest vessels can ride at anchor. Defensive works protect the entrance to the bay.

Simon’s Town dates from the close of the 17th century, the town and bay being named after Simon van der Stell, governor of the Cape in 1679–1699. It was at Simon’s Town that the first British landing in Cape Colony was made by General Sir James Craig in 1795. About 1810 the bay was selected as the base for the South African squadron, Table Bay being abandoned for that purpose in consequence of its exposed position.