False Bay, known in Afrikaans as Valsbaai, is a body of water defined by the Cape Peninsula (the finger-like projection on the right in the accompanying satellite image) and Cape Hangklip (Dutch: "Hang-stone") to the left (east). Cape Point 3 and the Cape of Good Hope are very close to each other at the extreme southern tip (top) of the Cape Peninsula. The eastern and western extremities of the fringing shores of the bay are very rocky and even mountainous; in places large cliffs plunge into deep water. The northern shore, however, is defined by a very long, curving, sandy beach. This sandy, northern perimeter of the bay is the start of the area known as the Cape Flats; one can see the large areas of wind-blown sand in the photograph. Some 13 miles across the Cape Flats one can see a smaller, C-shaped bay (Table Bay), with an island guarding its entrance. [Cape Town}} lies around Table Bay; one can see the dark, semi-circular amphitheatre created by Devil's Peak, Table Mountain, Lion's Head and Signal Hill. The island, about 11 km from the shore, is the notorious former prison island called Robben Island 6 (Dutch: Island of Seals), where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for decades. The name "False Bay" was applied early on (at least three hundred years ago) by sailors who confused the bay with Table Bay to the north. False Bay is exposed to southeasterly winds in summer and its waters are approximately 10° F higher than those of Table Bay, owing to the influence of the warm Aghulas current. The bay is 20 miles wide at its widest point. Fishing is good in False Bay and at times there are large schools of snoek, an oily, barracouda-like fish that is much sought after locally. Angling from the rocky shores to either side of the bay is very popular but dangerous. The shape of the bay creates interference patterns in the swells that come in from the Southern Ocean and these patterns occasionally combine to cause "killer waves" to rise up without warning and to sweep the sandstone ledges well above the high tide mark. Scores of fisherman have been swept away and drowned over the years but this seems to have done little to dampen enthusiasm for the sport. There is a small granite island in the bay (not discernible in the image) called Seal Island, which is one of the main breeding sites for the Cape Fur Seal. The seals attract large numbers of Great White sharks and some of the biggest sharks ever seen have been spotted in these waters. Despite this, swimming, surfing, yachting, SCUBA diving and so on are popular pastimes around the bay, at centres such as Muizenberg, ("Mast Mountain"), Kalkbaai ("Chalk Bay"), Smitswinkelbaai ("Smith's Shop Bay"), The Strand and Gordon's Bay. Shark attacks are not common but are by no means unknown. The famous naval base of Simonstown is situated on the Bay, about half way down the length of the Cape Peninsula. During the Second World War many heavy guns were dug into concrete bunkers at various points along the mountainous shores of False Bay in order to deter attacks on Simonstown. The firepower and defensive situation of these weapons were formidible and no attack was ever mounted. The guns were removed decades ago but the decaying bunkers remain. Although urban development of the coast is intense along some parts of False Bay, much of the shoreline remains relatively wild and unspoiled. The bulk of the development is residential; there is little heavy industry. There are a few exceptions, however: one of the largest dynamite factories in the world lies near the beach towards the wild and uninhabited eastern end of the bay. The nitoglycerine plant at this installation blew up twice in the second half of the 20th Century and sent massive shockwaves across the bay, breaking windows and rattling walls on the distant shores. False Bay is remarkably poor in natural harbours. Almost all protection for shipping and yachts has been created by artificial means.
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