OUTING TO THE WEST COAST FOSSIL PARK, GROOTFONTEIN FARM RUINS AND A REVISIT TO SCHAFTPLAAS
Time: 10.15 for 10.30am
Admission fee for Fossil Park: R60 for seniors, R80 for the youngsters
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE OUTING IS FOR PAID-UP MEMBERS ONLY!
Please wear your badges with the correct colour!
Our outing this month is to the Langebaan Road area, We are very privileged to have been invited to view the new museum and information complex at the West Coast Fossil Park before its official opening in September.
Meet at the gates to the Fossil Park at 10.15am – our appointment is at 10.30am
Travel time from Cape Town – give yourself about 2 hours and use the R27 or West Coast Road – the roadworks on the Malmesbury road are too time consuming.
Drive the R27 (West Coast Road) for roughly 110 km until, on your left, you will see an large Engine 1 Stop Garage. Just past the garage, take the first turning to your right, which is signposted Langebaanweg Airforce Base. Continue down this road for approximately 8 km until the road meets a T-junction. Turn left onto the R45. About 3 km down the road on your left, you will see the entrance to the West Coast Fossil Park.
The chairman of the WCFP. Adv Mitchell described the project as follows:
“We have worked closely with both Heritage Western Cape and the S. A. Heritage Resources Agency. Planning authorisations were handled by NM & Associates Planners and Designers. The precise location for the new buildings was very carefully chosen. We wanted our visitors to share in the experience of being close to the current dig site – the actual place where some of these animals were engulfed in a catastrophic flood event more that 5 million years ago – yet we also needed to ensure that we did not disturb or sterilise any fossil remains, even those that may lie as yet undiscovered. In the end, we chose a linear site along the contours and in the lee of an overburden ridge, this being an area that had been artificially created during previous mining operation,”
The following excerpt from Ground Up provides a background to our visit:
“The West Coast Fossil Park is one of the biggest recipients of the National Lottery Commission’s funding programme and it recently opened a new museum that focuses on what the area was like millions of years ago.
Five million years ago, long extinct animals likeroamed the dunes of the west coast at Langebaanweg, 150km north of Cape Town. The remains of these forgotten creatures lay buried until miners working on a sulphate mine uncovered some fossils. Now a new museum explores that distant past thanks to a multi-million rand injection of funding from the Lottery.
It is only once you walk out of the fairly nondescript parking lot and step onto the pathway leading to the newly renovated museum, that you can appreciate how thegrants were spent.
Previously, this historically important site had two small structures made of corrugated iron and brick. These housed offices for staff and researchers. It took more than five minutes to walk to the dig site, where the actual fossils lay. But today, you are greeted by an impressive building with glass walls and doors, that looks out onto the dig site, just 250 metres away.
Below: Models of Sivatheres (short necked giraffes) constructed from found wood.
With grants totaling R67 million, the West Coast Fossil Park is the 12th largest beneficiary of the NLC over time, overshadowed mainly by sporting bodies,health and research-related institutes. The money paid for the planning and development of the museum, the artwork and exhibitions in the centre, an educational programme, transport and staff. The project has been ongoing since 2009, though the centre has existed since 1998.”
The displays are not yet complete, but we are going to view the new building – its setting in the landscape in relation to the fossil area and its modern, eco-friendly cooling and water usage systems. Many local artists have already completed artworks with a fossil theme in the building. We are hopeful that the architect Jo Noero will be there to talk to us.
After our tour of the building, we will have an instructive session down at the actual fossil site.
The Fossil Park is world renowned for its exceptionally well preserved fossil faunal remains that date to the Miocene/early Pliocene (circa 5.2 million years ago).
Since the Park has a restaurant that both supports the Park and the local community, many whom lost their employment when the mine closed, we will have lunch there. There is a simple inexpensive menu (burgers, sandwiches, quiches, cakes etc.)
Ruins at Grootfontein
After lunch we will travel a few kilometres down the road to visit the ruins at Grootfontein, which we did not have time to do last month.Thereafter, we will return to Schaftplaas where Alet Kruger will be waiting to complete her tour of the farm, where we also ran out of time last month.