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Lambert's Bay - Flowers, Crayfish, Whales and Gannets
Lambert's Bay History and More...

Before the year 1800 Gerrit Erasmus Smit established himself on the farm, Bobergvlei which he hired from the Govt. The area he demarcated for his cattle farming operations he named "Otterdam". At the end of 1831 Smit paid an annual rental of 2-5-0 Pd (+ R30.00) for the Otterdam comprising an area of 5486 morgen. The name "Otterdam" was derived from an earlier established dam east of the Jakkals River beyond Rooiberg on the road to Clanwilliam. The area was known throughout as Otterdam till Lambert's Bay was proclaimed in 1913 when the first plots were sold.

Lambert's Bay was named after a former British admiral who charted the coastline between 1826 en 1940.

Robert Grissold, the first owner of Otterdam, bought the ground in 1858 from the Government. The ground changed hands a few times till Stephan bought in 1887 from Van Zyl. In 1888 he built the Marine Hotel. He was then using the bay for his trading fleet: the Stella, Oarana and Borelis.

Onderbergvlei, Kookfontein and Yzerfontein now called Zuurfontein formed the cultural centre of the farming community.

During this time James William van Putten, born in Stratford, England in 1849 of a Dutch father and a French mother, arrived in South Africa. In 1882 he married Gesina (Gesie) Maria Engelbregt the daughter of Josias Andreas, the owner of Onderbergvlei. Van Putten received a portion of ground from this father-in-law. He erected a hotel, bar and shop on the site, which served as a post office, courtroom and as a dance hall.

Here at Van Puttensvlei Boer and "Brit" met each other often during the Anglo-Boer War (1900 – 1902). It was on such occasions that the "Lancers" was danced. British ships often visited the Bay and that was how the Sybille, a British gunboat ran aground on the rocks at Steenboksfontein, 8 km south of Lambert's Bay in January 1901. Salvaged items are to be found in the Museum.

On the 20th August 1903 Stephan Bros. Sold 24 morgen of ground at the mouth of the Jakkals River to the State for an outspan. On the 13th December 1909 Henry John Stephan sold the rest of Otterdam to the State for 9500 Pd (+ R142 500). That was the start of Lambert's Bay. The first residents were Grissold, Stigling and the family Spence. When the first school was started in 1915 there were only 5 families. Housing was a problem as the water was brak and fresh water had to be carted from Kookfontein and Groendam.

In 1918 when Axel Lindstrom & Co erected the first crayfish canning factory, it sparked a boom in trading in the village. Numerous whites as well as coloureds came into Lambert's Bay. In 1929 there were only 10 buildings of stone and clay. Slowly more buildings were erected and the town expanded. In 1929 Lambert's Bay was declared a local authority. In 1934 the town was elevated to Village Management Board status, with Mr Burrel as first chairman. Up till 1936 the Lambert's Bay area was patrolled by the police stationed at Van Puttenslvei which was the Police Headquarters for this area.

In 1910 the rail link was lengthened from Eendekuil to Graafwater. Up to that time all trade was conducted by sea. In 1935 J.A.W. (Johnny) Spence started a transport service by sea with the MV Mae West. He confined himself to the carting of petrol and paraffin and supplied virtually the whole North Western Cape. This enterprise brought in thousands of Rands.

Crayfish in Lambert's Bay

As you all know strict regulations are in place to protect our crayfish. (West Coast Rock Lobster)

The reason being the following: Crayfish have a long life. They can reach an age of 40 years, but first they have to go a long way before they reach adult-hood. They mate when the female moults, i.e. sheds her shell in May/June. When she moults she is soft and pliable without any shell which is the time when she is most vulnerable to pre-dators i.e. Fur Seals, Hagfish, Mussel crackers and Tuna Fish. The incubation period of the egg is 92 days.

The female is abount 7 years old by the time she lays her first eggs. She then has a carapace length of 7 cm. She produces +/- 200 000 eggs of which only 1% reach maturity. She secretes a glue to which she attaches the eggs under the membrane on the tail.

Larval development requires 260 days (8 – 9 months). Once hatched the larvae, phyllosoma are widely dispersed by surface currents and drift helplessly near the ocean surface for 3 years or more. During this time they go through about 11 moult stages and feed mainly on jellyfish. Eventually they return to familiar environment and metamorphose into the little boy stage (puerulus). This transparent juvenile lobster closely resembles the adult and is an adept swimmer. It usually settles in shallow water kelp beds near the adult stocks. The juveniles moult many times a year for about 5 years after settlement, after which they become adults. The male increases in size by from only 2-5 mm per year, whereas the female by a mean 1 mm is a slow growth rate – sometimes no growth takes place in a year. The males are usually larger then females, but the females are broader then the males.

Feeding: The main food of the rock lobster are mussels, sea urchins, starfish and kelp, although they will eat almost any source of protein and are therefore regarded as scavengers. They can go without food for long periods and only feed under calm conditions.

Normally the Crayfish season starts middle November through to April. Recreational fisherman may buy a license from the Post Office and take out four crayfish per day which may not be sold.

Whales & Dolphins

Speciality species: Heaviside's dolphin is endemic to the west coast of southern Africa, with a range from Cape Point north to southern Angola. Lambert's Bay is widely acknowledged as the best place to see this species, year-round in small groups.

Regular Species: Dusky Dolphin (year-round), Southern Right Whale (seasonally common, August - November), Humback Whale (occasional on migration, June/July and October/November).

Occasional Species: Although boat trips within the bay have not encountered other species, Bryde's and Killer Whales, and common dolphins may possibly seen from nearby coastal headlands.

Shore Based Watching

Heaviside's Dolphin can be found anywhere along the bay. A good spot is on the beach in front of Lambert's Bay Caravan Park, where it is possible to climb up the dune and sit directly in front of the park fence to gain a little eye height. Heavyside's dolphins come quite close to shore here (often 50-500 metres), and have been seen just beyond the kelp beds off the caravan park. Binoculars scans along the surf zone further up the beach may produce dolphins. Scan out beyond Bird Island and the harbour breakwater for the blowes of Southern Right Whales, which can also be seen within the bay right up to the surf zone.

An MTN Cape Whale Route lookout post is situated on the western edge of the town on the road to Elands Bay. This point is an excellent loacation to view passing Right Whales and other pelagic species including ocassional migrating Humpback Whales and various dolphins.

A further accesible site is Elands Bay about 25 km to the south of Lambert's Bay. It is a beautiful spot and very popular with surfers - beyond the surf zone you are likely to see the blows, backs and tail flukes of meandering Southern Right Whales. Heaviside's, Dusky and Common dolphins are also seen around this bay.
About the Author
Gerald Crawford was born in South Africa, studied electronics, telecommunication, eco-travel and african travel concepts. He taught responsible tourism in South Africa. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me on. E-mail address: southafricantravelarticles@12234455.co.za. Website address: www.12234455.co.za.
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