Bookshelf: Shoreline


Shoreline: Discovering South Africa’s Coast by Jeannie Hayward, Jaco Loubser, Claudio Velásquez Rojas

Sometimes I do things in the wrong order, and reading this book (I think) is an example of that. It’s the companion volume to locally-produced series Shoreline, of which I have only watched one episode while having a raucous conversation with my sister about whether her former junior school rival had aged well.

Like the television series, Shoreline the book is divided into chapters by location, traversing South Africa’s 2,800 kilometres of shoreline from the Orange river to Kosi Bay. Much of the text is taken directly from the television program, for which the script was written by the brilliant Tom Eaton. Magnificent photographs by Claudio Velásquez Rojas, who worked with Thomas Peschak on Currents of Contrast. The aerial photos in particular are incredible – much of South Africa’s coast is dramatically rocky with gorges, cliffs and free-standing formations such as Hole in the Wall at Coffee Bay, and seeing it from an unusual angle is very special.

The book is not solely focused on the marine and coastal wildlife and plants found along our shores, although many species are singled out. There is evidence of extremely early human settlement and family groups along the South African coastline, where the poly-unsaturated fatty acids available from marine species such as limpets would allow large-brained humanoid inhabitants of the sea caves along the southern Cape coast to thrive. There is thus a strong archaeological focus to the volume, and the marriage between natural history and anthropology, geology, oceanography, zoology, botany and archaeology is beautifully achieved. The communities that currently inhabit the shoreline and utilise its resources also feature, and I enjoyed learning of the fish kraals at Kosi Bay, the fish traps built by 19th century farmers along the Wild Coast, and the Thembe-Tonga people, who harvest red bait and other invertebrates from rock pools at full and new moon. The book also touches on subjects such as the KwaZulu Natal shark nets, Knysna seahorses, the diamond industry on the West Coast, and a number of other special interest subjects that apply to different sections of our coast.

As soon as I finished reading this book I made plans for a midweek break at De Kelders for me and Tony later this year (during whale season) and I have been plotting how we can explore some of the Wild Coast without going missing or getting stuck in the mud. The South African coast is compelling and varied, and it seems that one could travel it for a lifetime without getting bored. This beautiful book showcases the beauty, variety and history of our coast in spectacular fashion.

There are some representative photos here. A short review can be found here. I’d recommend it for locals as well as for tourists who want a coffee table volume to take home as a souvenir – this one has substance, as well as the requisite pretty pictures.

You can purchase a copy of the book here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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