Suitable approaches to preservation of the Old Timber Shed

Suitable approaches to preservation of the Old Timber Shed

Speaker:   Len Raymond

Commissioned in 1788, Plett’s Timbershed is an important symbol of the economic development of our sub-continent as envisaged and thereafter made good in the late-18th Century.  For it came to be built and commissioned here at Plettenberg Bay – on instructions of the Dutch East India Company through its representatives at the Cape – to address pressing economic needs, stemming largely from what was then the enormous significance of timber in the colonial economy and also worldwide. 

Between the time of Jan van Riebeek’s arrival in 1652, and Governor van Plettenberg’s 1778 visit to what would, largely due to his initiative, be the Timbershed’s site, there had been, quite literally, a considerable change in the colonial landscape: from Cape Town all the way to the future George, much of the Colony’s timber had already been axed for a multitude of essential purposes including transportation (carts and wagons), buildings, bridges and harbour installations.  Also for export, especially to other parts of the far-flung DEIC ’empire’.  

Wagon-loads of hewn timber were at that time a common sight on the primitive coastal roads linking Cape Town to the colony’s eastern reaches. 

However, comparatively little timber had up to then come from points east of George between the sea and the rugged mountain range. This had been largely because of transportation problems, not least the natural barrier presented by the approaches to Kaaimans River, as well as by the river crossing itself–for bridges of any significance were to come much later on. 

Thus it was that Governor van Plettenberg when he paid his visit to this Bay in 1778 with Gordon, was favourably impressed by the local forests then scarcely axed and, at the same time, by the possibilities of using sea transport in the chain of exploiting this natural resource for a multitude of desirable purposes, domestic and export.                                                                      

Fast-forwarding to the present day, the Timbershed is, therefore, worth preserving for all it represents in terms of past achievements in meeting the then colony’s steadily growing economic needs. 

But how?  And with primarily just what in mind? 

Is the Timbershed regarded as a relic or a ruin? Should it be preserved or restored? The National Monuments Council declared it a national monument in 1937, describing it as a ruin. Heritage Western Cape, in line with worldwide thinking on these matters, now engages professionals to investigate, assess and decide. 

The original structure had timber beams, most probably yellowwood, spanning over six metros and supporting a boarded flat roof covered with brak klei (taken from dry pans where nothing grows) and sealed with whale fat. Under the weight of rain water the roof would have sagged, preventing complete run-off. Sagging would have caused cracks for leaks to slowly rot the timber below until the beams collapsed. The Timbershed’s stone walls would have been rendered-and-lime-washed, with timber lintels over the ten window openings on the long walls. As the timber lintels decayed the stone-work above collapsed and many of the stones have disappeared. 

Considering restoration: could the cost be justified of providing yellowwood beams (one could certainly not use tannalith-treated gumpoles) and stonework (to be hidden by rendering and limewash), if the structure was doomed to similar decay and collapse? Alternatively, should restoration follow the Mossel Bay example? 

Not far from Plett, at Mossel Bay, there was an 18th Century South African relic, the Grain Store,  of almost identical size and construction. [That has been rebuilt after a fashion in the 20th century–Recent photograph displayed.] “How many of you,” Len Raymond asked, “have seen and visited the shed while in Mossel Bay and looked inside?” …”It seems nobody at all!” (Stunned silence.) 

The original Grain Store would, like the Timbershed, have had rendered and lime-washed stone walls. It would also have had timber beams spanning over six metres supporting a boarded flat roof covered with brak klei and sealed with whale fat. In preparation for the Dias Fifth Centenary in 1986, the existing modern factory on the site was gradually demolished in the hope of finding substantial evidence of the original shed. As it turned out, only stone foundation walls remained. 

The decision was made to build a structure of the same dimensions and form, with ten windows on either side and a flat roof – only the walls would be plastered brick and gum-poles be used for the roof. It looks, certainly on the outside, very much like a 20th Century packing-shed and houses activities associated with tourism. Is this an example to be followed at Plett? 

  • Further away from Plett, at Melkbosstrand, there is an older and smaller 18th Century shed.  At a time when it was considered safer to come ashore at Melkbosstrand in preference to Table Bay, a stone-walled and thatch-roofed shed was erected to store arriving goods or goods readied for export. It has remained – as a store of sorts – in substantially the same form up until the present. Here you can see restoration work in progress. Stonework has been repaired as has the roof structure, which is now being thatched.  [Photo available] 
  • In Mandalay, Burma, there  is another old building of the period, but one that looks as though it may have been rebuilt, repaired and/or preserved very much in its original style. 
  • In Malaysia, Malacca as a whole was named a World Heritage site in 2007.  What remains of  an 18th Century building has been stabilized;  the floor that has been laid includes Dutch gravestones; and it has been opened to tourists 
  • In Norway what remains of Hamar Cathedral, an 18th Century building alongside Lake Mjosa, is today enclosed under a huge steep-pitched clear-glazed canopy supported by an open steel lattice framework. The ruin is thus protected from further decay by the elements or plundering, and is given significance as being worthy of preservation. The canopy creates a precinct that speaks volumes for local civic pride and, at the same time, for its pull as a tourist attraction. 

Of the examples discussed, the glass canopy may have been much the most expensive, but the result may also be judged the most impressive; and surely also the best in terms of protecting old if not original structures, in safely housing other relics of an increasingly distant past; and – not least – in attracting local and visitors’ attention.  

The Fagan proposal, which I have only recently seen and which – incidentally – has never been presented to HWC, leaves about a third of the Timbershed unroofed with two-thirds roofed in a manner similar to the original. It would be used as a restaurant and for small open-air production productions.

Plett might do well to consider the Timbershed as part of a historical precinct with the Timbershed opened to the sea, with the Diaz beacon on one side, and the to-be-restored Rectory on the other. As such it could provide a worthy tourist attraction. We have a duty to future generations to preserve things, so the cost should not be assessed in terms of financial viability but rather in terms of these enduring cultural values.

Some suggestions:

  • Get the VPHS registered with Heritage Western Cape as an ‘Interested and Affected Party. This is provided for in the legislation; and would ensure the opportunity to have a say – and before that, to have sight of all proposals for alterations and/or usage of the Timbershed requiring official approval.
  • Form, or participate in the formation of, a Trust to take over or have an ownership share in the Timbershed in place of present sole-ownership by the Municipality; or merely to achieve recognition as ‘an interested and affected party’.
  • Register the Trust with HWC as an ‘interested and affected party’ in respect of any applications or decision-making affecting the Timbershed that it may be considering from time to time.
  • Persuade Bitou Municipality to permit the Trust to deal directly with Heritage Western Cape.
  • Lotto funding should be a real possibility.
Tsitsikamma Rivers Project – quest to understand and conserve our rivers

Tsitsikamma Rivers Project – quest to understand and conserve our rivers

Speaker:   Geoff McIlleron                    

The Tsitsikamma Rivers Project, launched in 2008, is a quest to understand and conserve the river systems of the Tsitsikamma mountains which are valuable natural assets of this area. 

In many parts of our country the river systems are in a parlous state, to the extent that some are dubbed the ‘sewers of South Africa’. Some rivers are already dead, others are endangered. Even in our area, rivers are polluted. For example the children of the primary school in Kurland Village are involved in a clean-up project, organised by the Nature’s Valley Trust, in which they regularly relieve their river of tons of rubbish. 

The Tsitsikamma Rivers project, a large research project, was – in a roundabout way – set in motion by a gentleman making application to establish a trout farm in the Salt River area, which in turn prompted Cape Nature to investigate the ecology of the river. The Trout Farm application was unsuccessful because of the findings of the research consultants who reported a remarkably rich diversity of aquatic insects in the river. 

The project of today’s presentation was initiated and coordinated by Nature’s Valley Trust and funded by Table Mountain Fund which is linked to World Wildlife Fund. The research teams were drawn from the Department of Water Affairs, Albany Museum and the Universities of Rhodes and Stellenbosch. SANParks and Table Mountain Fund played a constructive supportive role in formulating and supporting the project. 

The eleven rivers studied range from the Matjies in the west to the Groot Rivier which lies east of Storms River. These are short rivers, typically 15 km, rising in the Tsitsikamma Mountains. These fynbos covered sandstone mountains with their numerous gorges determine the nature of the rivers which are cold, fast-flowing, well oxygenated waters with little sediment. These rivers are acidic and of a red-brown colour, due to the presence of humic acid.  Despite the colour, the water is potable, and probably of the finest quality in the country. 

The first phase of this project was completed last year and involved the study of the aquatic insect population located in the 11 rivers running from West to, are: Matjies, Buffels, Salt, Groot (W), Bobbejaans, Bloukrans, Lottering, Elandsbos, Storms, Elands, Groot (E).  Importantly the degree of presence and diversity of the insect species in their various habitats is a reliable indicator to the health of a river and therefore its conservation worthiness. 

Future phases of the project will focus on how best to implement the stewardship of these beautiful waters. 

It was found that the upper reaches of two of the rivers were completely inaccessible by humans on foot, affording perfect protection of the ecosystem. Helicopters were used to gain access to these rivers. 

The research teams collected insects by a variety of sampling techniques which included special daytime flight traps, ultra violet light traps for night flying insects and hand nets for both larvae in the river and flying adults in the air. Samples of both larvae and flying insects were identified by scientists at Albany Museum and, in some instances referred to specialist organisations locally and overseas.  It was found that, while some insects are common to all of the rivers, many are specific to their own river systems. It was also found that the upper reaches of the rivers were markedly different in species composition from the lower reaches and usually contained a greater diversity of species. Thirty-four species and four genera new to science were identified within known families.  

The insects have many remarkable behavioural characteristics: the caddisfly larvae, for instance, protect themselves from predation within cases made with silken threads which bind together particles of sand, leaves and plant stems, each species having its own specialist design. As with hermit crabs in the sea, there is competition for good homes and one species will often take over suitable cases from another and certain of them add a distinctive canopy over its head.  Once airborne, the caddisflies become superb flyers, sometimes tinted blue or green by the light and some with golden-coloured wings. Often an abundant egg mass hangs from the abdomen of an adult female caddisfly’s abdomen, which it then disperses into the river by dipping its tail into the water. Forty-eight species of caddisflies were identified. 

Mayflies are quite a primitive insect life form – the nymphs (larvae) have external gills which serve as lungs; again there are a number of different species. 

The study of the dragonflies showed that they too had developed species exclusive to certain river habitat types. Blackfly larvae were seen to use silk ‘hooks’ on their tails which they used to anchor themselves to rocks while they filtered food particles from the flowing water. The species are specialised according to the different speed of the river flow, some even showing preference for the faster flow of waterfalls. Different species, which specialise on using different water flow rates are sometimes found very close to one other – as little two metres apart where there is variation in the rate of water flow. 

Species are sometimes found very close to one other – as little two metres apart where there is variation in the rate of water flow. 

Altogether over 70 000 insect samples were collected, all ßof them being scrutinised by zoologists in minute detail for identification, mostly under a microscope,. One of the species new to science was discovered by scientists from studying photographs taken on location.  

One enthusiastic researcher spotted a water snake (hitherto unknown in these waters) and dived in, but failed to catch it.  These snakes live under the water, coming up periodically for air. They are thought to be harmless to humans. 

For capturing high quality photographs a rig was constructed which triggered a photograph when a pair of infra-red beams was broken by an insect crossing the beams. Ultra-violet lamps were used to attract the night flying insects to the vicinity of the infra red beams. Geoff used a variety of photographic techniques to capture the adult insects in free flight. These included single photographs taken by high speed flash at 1/4000 second. These pictures did much to elucidate flight mechanics of the insects. He also used a strobe mode from which it was possible to work out the speed of their flight and to observe their flight patterns. Further techniques using continuous light in conjunction with flash revealed more information about flight behaviour. For example photographs depicting loop-the-loop and a predilection for flying upside down. 

The findings of the completed Phase One of the Tsitsikamma Rivers Project are significant: there is a clear distinction between the rivers with respect to their insect assemblages and a surprisingly high level of diversity for a comparatively small region was noted. Most of the ‘new’ and endemic species were to be found in the upper reaches of the rivers which are fortunately afforded the protection of the Tsitsikamma National Park . In three rivers there were no fish, which is an important factor contributing to the rich diversity of aquatic insect life.  Some of the ‘new’ species originate from the Jurassic Period – 140 to 200 million years ago: the time of dinosaurs and Gondwanaland. Unfortunately, it is a lengthy process to have the ‘new’ species formally recognised. 

The Project has underlined the fantastic richness of our insect life – even by international standards. Unfortunately, it is a lengthy process to have the ‘new’ species officially recognised. 

There is concern that damage to the ecosystems may be caused by pollution e.g. the addition of phosphorus and nitrogen from commercial agriculture and sewerage treatment plants.  A further threat is implied where there is excessive withdrawal of water from the rivers which may result in an increase of the water temperature and pH.  The well-being, indeed survival, of the insect life is dependent upon cool, acidic waters. 

It is planned that the Project should  continue with further research work and, most importantly by implementing stewardship measures. The next steps still need to be clarified in detail and followed by action. Our natural assets must be safeguarded: the future of our region depends upon it. The next steps need to be clarified, followed by action. 

All the players were deserving of recognition and praise for a project well executed. In addition to the central research scientists, the important contribution of the Department of Water Affairs in providing a generous number of researchers requires recognition. 

In conclusion a quote from America’s Barbara Kingsolver: ‘Water is life, it is the briny broth of our origins, the founding circulatory systems of the world, the precarious molecular edge on which we survive.’

Diggings and important findings in the Blombos Cave

Diggings and important findings in the Blombos Cave

Speaker:    Petro Keene

A South African archaeologist with a considerable international reputation, Professor Christopher Henshilwood discovered Still Bay’s important prehistoric cave site in 1991.  He has close ties with two leading Universities – Wits in Johannesburg and Bergen in Norway. 

Systematic analysis at what is now known as the Blombos Cave began in 1992. And the site was excavated between 1997 and 2011, following the deployment of a team of excavators and after an additional on-site investigation by archaeologist Cedric Poggenpoel.  

It remains under Henshilwood’s overall direction. And more excavation work is in the pipeline. 

When this activity began, the cave entrance had been almost totally sealed by dune sand. It is a small cave, leading off a smaller ante-chamber that has only recently been discovered.  

Excavation activity to date has revealed a cave interior of 55 square metres of visible deposits, with estimated depths of about 4,5 metres at the front end and some 3 metres toward the rear. 

Archaeological  activity so far has also uncovered Middle Stone-Age layers providing evidence of  human habitation – along with fishing activity – conceivably going back

110 000 years. And so-called Later Stone-Age occupation – from roughly 2000 years ago until as recently as perhaps 290 years ago. 

(There appears to have been no human or animal activity to disturb the cave’s contents since about 1720 AD – 66 years after van Riebeeck – hence not for the past 290 years.) 

Middle Stone Age occupation:  here the surrounding mass or matrix is mainly dune sand blown in through the cave entrance, along with sea shells, decomposed materials, limestone and wind-borne halites (rock-salt).  Another feature of these deposits is that they undulate considerably from the back to the front of the cave, due to subsidence that has produced a ‘wrapping effect’  by subsequent rock falls.  

The deepest and earliest Middle Stone Age period, going back 100 000 years – and which is referred to as the ‘upper M3 phase’ – is characterised by shellfish deposits and a high incidence of ochre pieces (indicating that it did not conform to the ‘typical’ Middle Stone Age pattern previously observed at Klasies River). 

Finds that have been identified as finely-made scrapers  (some circular, others appearing to be end-scrapers)  also suggest that hide preparation– whether for ‘home comforts’ or crude apparel – also took place at the site in that earliest period. 

The so-called M2 phase comprises no fewer than four levels of carbonised deposits; large hearths; and shellfish.  Shaped bone tools ‘possibly used as awls and projectile points’  came mainly from M2 layers, but also from the M1 phase – comprising the five uppermost layers of Middle Stone Age occupation – that came later. 

The ‘stratigraphic integrity of artefacts recovered from these levels has been demonstrated,  which is to say that there is minimal evidence of movement of artifacts as between the Middle Stone Age phases. 

Later Stone Age occupation: these deposits are more massively bedded; and, being less than 2000 years old are relatively undistorted. In addition to that, burned layers tend to be thicker and several of these appear to preserve (reflect) their original hearth-like structures. 

Carbonised deposits reflect occupation boundaries: hence separate major occupying groups. However these  deposits undulate considerably from the back to the front of the cave, due to subsequent subsidence that produced a ‘wrapping’ effect over the rock falls. 

In this period ground waters rich in calcium carbonate percolated through the cave roof and walls, creating an environment helpful to preservation of bone and shell – particularly near to what have been identified as hearths and ash deposits. 

Burned layers tend to be thicker, with several appearing to preserve their original hearth-like structures. 

More recent dating: During the 2008 excavation Dr Chantal Tribolo selected 24 lithics (stone items) for thermoluminescence dating;  while Professor Stein-Erik Lauritzen selected five sample flowstones for uranium-thorium dating in Norway. 

Human material recovered from the Middle Stone Age finds is small – just nine teeth.  The crown diameters of some of these suggest the then Blombos residents were ‘probably anatomically modern’; findings supported by similar evidence from nearby Klasies River. 

Genetic and fossil evidence suggests that humans were ‘anatomically near-modern’ more than 100 000 years ago. A key question is whether ‘anatomical and behavioural modernity developed in tandem.  In this respect there is agreement on one criterion; namely that evidence of ‘abstract or depiction images’ (primitive art) indicates modern human behaviour; and – here quoting Professor Henshilwood – that no clear distinction can be made between Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age subsistence behavior at Blombos  Cave. Moreover, an impression that the Blombos Cave engravings are ‘intentional images’ – in the light of which it seems that, in southern Africa at any rate, Homo Sapiens was behaviorally modern some 77 000 years ago. 

More than 30 bone artefacts have been recovered at Blombos Cave. Bone tools are taken as providing comprehensive evidence of systematic bone tool manufacture and use. 

Microscopic analysis of a bone fragment marked with eight parallel lines indicates that these are the result of deliberate engraving and were ‘possibly made with symbolic intent. 

The discovery of more than 65 shell beads in Blombos Cave ‘has added a new dimension to modern human behaviour debates’. 

Animal remains collected from Blombos Cave show that Middle Stone Age people practised a ‘subsistence strategy’ that included a very broad range of animals, large and small (from eland to tortoises and dune mole rats).  They also brought seal, dolphin and probably whale meat back to the cave. More than 1200 fish bones have been recovered from the Middle Stone Age debris. Blombos Cave shellfish remains to provide early evidence of their popularity as sea foods possibly going back 110 000 years. 

Excavations at Blombos Cave in 2008 revealed a ‘processing workshop’ where a liquefied ochre-rich mixture was produced and stored in in two Haliosis Midae shells 100 000 years ago. 

All this represents an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use or sea-use, which is representative of a culture, or at least of human interaction with the environment.

Unlimited Child Expedition to the South Pole: The Last Degree

Unlimited Child Expedition to the South Pole: The Last Degree

Speaker:   Peter Berning             

This bit of trouble that I got into began at UCT (Smuts Hall, 1968). Iain Buchan and I were new men together and both products of the Transkei, where our parents ran medical practices in Lusikisiki and Cofimvaba respectively. We remained friends and in frequent contact. Following my experiences in the Arctic, Iain (Buch) asked me in 2009 what I thought would be a “next on the bucket list” experience. I said that Antarctica beckoned and there was a mountain – one of the seven summits – Mt Vinson – that we would climb.  He began investigating; and following discussions with his sons Zack and Barney decided we would tackle ‘The Last Degree’ instead: a plus/minus 120km ski to the South Pole from 89 degrees south,  pulling our gear on sledges. 

I had openly told Buch that I would need to be sponsored and that if a charity or worthy cause could benefit from our expedition it would be more fulfilling. He concurred and reassured me on both counts. 

So it was that on 9 January 2012 (this year) we flew out of O. R. Tambo for Sao Paulo Brazil to connect to Santiago (Chile) and on to Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile on the straits of Magellan where we arrived at 5a.m. on 10 January 2012. Our party consisted of Iain, Zack and Barney Buchan, Nzuzo Mtikati (representing our charity – The Unlimited Child) and me, as well as the seasoned adventurer and documentary photographer Sean Wisedale. We met the organizer from Adventure Peaks – Dave Pritt, and Rob (who was to ‘navigate’) at the hotel – ‘The Mundo Dreams’ – a 4-star establishment overlooking the straits. 

The next two days were spent organizing kit, buying last minute extras and experiencing the quaint bustling little town. Following an orientation lecture by staff of ANI (Adventure Network International) who control and run Union Glazier to which we were flying, we were told to await the call to board the Iluyshin-76 waiting on the Punta Airport runway for favourable weather in Antarctica. 

The call came that very evening and by 10pm we were airborne in the huge cargo jet – only 27 seats and the rest of the fuselage cordoned off for cargo – no windows – very noisy and with a very calm and friendly crew. We landed on the 3 mile blue ice runway deep in Antarctica at 2am and were transported the 9km to Union Glazier base which has replaced the previous well known Patriot Hills as the ANI base. 

This efficient base, with excellent food, a warm dining area, 24-hour communication room, a Clinic with two doctors and tented accommodation would be our orientation and training base for 2–3 days as we prepared ourselves and waited to be flown to 89 degrees south from their smaller airfield. One short trial ski and one night out from base, near a beautiful glacier, was the limit of our training; and on the 15 January 2012 at about midday we flew out in a turbocharged recon Dakota (DC3) – now called a Basler – piloted by two Canadians out of Calgary where Ken Borak Air is based. 

This fleet of aircraft work the Arctic from March to September; then ferry south to service Antarctica in its summer. We landed at 89 degrees south at 3.30pm and offloaded our gear, forming a chain and piling our sledges and skis away from the prop wash. Then watched the Basler take off, leaving us alone on the vast polar plateau, with our next sighting of humanity at the South Pole. We did a short 3 hour pull covering some 5-6km before making our first camp on the ice.  

I will now try to describe a day in the life of a Polar traveler starting with the intense light on dilated pupils as one lifts the eye cover that has been used to shut out the 24-hour sunlight.  It is about 6am Chile time and it will take up to three hours to be ready for the planned 9am start. The temperature in the tent is a warm minus 8 degrees as the wind has been mild and the yellow inner tent has trapped some sunlight heat and retained our body heat.  Removing the thermal underwear and reaching into my sleeping bag, I start to dress in layers that could reach up to four below the waist and up to five above. Ablutions are performed as I exit my sleeping bag – peeing into a bottle and spitting toothpaste and saliva into the same. This will be poured into our ‘grey hole’ at the campsite which will be covered when we leave camp. 

Peeping outside to assess the weather and wind before deciding on upper body layers for the day and whether to use the wind suit or not, I see steam issuing from the mess tent some 7 metres away as ice is melted and heated for breakfast. Then back inside to pack the sleeping bag, roll up the thermorest and foam ‘mattress’ and feeling the temperature drop 5–10 degrees as the insulation is packed away. Extra gloves, toiletries, diaries and nightwear are packed into various bags which are tossed out into the snow/ice awaiting the packing of the sledge. We go over to the mess tent to sit tightly together in the steamy but icy tent that has been pitched over a trench some 2,5m by 1m wide. We sit facing one another with our legs and feet in the trench. Breakfast is porridge and scrambled egg with small ham cubes both prepared by adding boiling water to the dehydrated food packets and waiting 5-to-8 minutes before eating. Coffee and tea and the filling of our all-important thermos flasks involves the melting of much ice and we exit the mess tent one by one, our flasks full and snacks (trail mix, chocolate or sweets) packed in the grab bags from which we will eat all day. 

The tents are struck and rolled up – with the poles coming apart with some difficulty due to freezing at the joins. The sledges are packed as neatly as possible; boots secured; harnesses on and clipped to the tow ropes; skis on; and then the all-important ‘buddy check’ as you check each other for face mask placement, hoods and goggles – covering every centimetre of cheeks and neck. 

We group together to discuss the pace, stopping times and estimate for the length of the day. The plateau is nearly 9500 feet above sea level and flat all the way to the Pole. Barney had nausea and a headache from mild altitude sickness but responded well to treatment. We set off just after 9am, navigating by compass, the sun, our shadows and with intermittent GPS checks. We decided on one-and-a-half-hour sessions of trekking with 10-to-15 minute breaks to rest, eat and drink. It is a good idea to turn the sledge, at each stop, backs into the wind and pulling up close together, sitting on the sledge for a few minutes rest, chat, drink and snack. 

It is vital to put the big fleece jacket on immediately after stopping; and to limit the time that your hands are out of the mitt, as cold fingers take up to half-an-hour to warm up (even with the warmers waiting in the mitts). After three sessions it is past 2 o’clock.  We have covered more than 10km and decide on a 5 – 5.30 stop.  Scott (our American guide) has struck the mess tent and cleaned the campsite. After kite skiing for a couple of hours he has caught up and passed us on the snowmobile and given instructions to make camp some 6 – 7 km ahead. We soldier on for two more sessions with the second being a very short stop as we can see camp up ahead. We get into camp before six, tired but not exhausted and head to the mess tent for soup or hot chocolate. This is a mistake as we must now leave the shelter and relative warmth of the mess tent and go out to pitch our own tents – this is not pleasant. It is bitterly cold (about minus 30 degrees), the wind is quite stiff and we are tired. We decide there and then to get the tent up and ready for bed before we go for soup etc. in future. 

Food is ready around 8pm and by 8.45pm we are back in our tents and in our sleeping bags.  Buch is asleep by 9.15pm  but I lie awake till 10pm enjoying the comfort and warmth of my sleeping bag before pulling my beanie over my eyes and drifting into a Polar sleep. 

I am awake at 5.30am but reluctant to move yet. Buch is bravely contemplating his first Polar toilet visit. Into a wag bag, out on the tiny loo, with minimal protection from the wind! All waste must be kept in the bags provided, 2 poos per bag (your own), and taken to the Pole for eventual disposal in Chile!!! Only urine and cooking waste may be poured into the ‘grey hole’. Buch returns cursing and we decide to dig a trench under our fly sheet up to the tent flap ‘door’, creating a step outside the tent protected from the wind by the flysheet. This was a far better place for wagbag use. It was also useful for putting on and taking off our boots. The boots come inside at night to be hung upside down above us with gloves, face mask, and anything vaguely damp – amazingly, all these were dry in the morning due to the low humidity. The polar plateau is a high dry white desert with very little snow. 

On 17 January we commemorated the centenary of Robert Falcon Scott’s arrival at the Pole some 35 days after Roald Amundsen. In a filmed interview with Sean Wisedale, Zack mentioned the incredible tenacity and bravery of the early polar explorers – comparing the technology and quality of equipment we now had at our disposal to that of a century ago. He noted however that the conditions and climate are no less brutal now and demanded constant vigil or it would ‘bite you on the bum’. This proved to be an unfortunately true prediction as Nzuzo was found to have cold damage to his nose and two fingertips, undoubtedly due to inexperience, poor diligence and possibly inadequate training. We decided to confine him to camp and to have him travel by snowmobile with Scott, as the damaged areas were extremely vulnerable and further cold exposure would result in frost bite and loss of terminal digits etc. Nzuzo accepted the decision in good spirit, and rejoined the trekking three days later. 

We peeled off the days getting stronger and a little faster and were lucky to have no high winds to confine us to the tents for the seven days we were on the plateau. This is unusual as there is usually a ‘big blow’ every 5–6 days. By the evening of 20 January we could see the two large structures that house the telescopes and other equipment at the South Pole, looking like ships on a white sea. We were about 20km away. On 21 January at about 4pm we arrived at the beacon some 4km from the South Pole at which all ‘traffic’–skiers, racers, vehicles – must enter the area surrounding the Pole. This is essential for control of the runway, clean air zones, scientific areas etc. We then vectored down a dedicated marked route to the camping site, about one kilometre from 90 degrees south. The last 4km was an absolute killer after the understandable celebrating at the yellow beacon sign which read “Welcome to the South Pole”. 

Nevertheless at 5.30 pm we were welcomed by the ANI crew who were dismantling the structures which had been erected for the Amundsen and Scott Centenary events. We had a shot of whiskey (called HIGH COMMISSIONER – which I had never heard of) and a hot stew with bread – then pitched our tents and headed for the ‘visitors centre’ which had two big gas fires, comfortable camp chairs and a ‘relatively’ warm loo. Indescribable luxury!! 

I read some passages from Scott’s dairy of 17 January 1912 to the team and we all fell silent – aware of the fate that was to befall them, and the vast difference in our privileged state. 

The weather was still good and the Basler was due in the next morning. We returned to our tents to sleep. We then had just enough time to pack and have a short one-hour tour of the massive American base the Amundsen Scott Base – guided by a delightful lady from the Midwest – before the obligatory photographs at the commemorative Pole (the ‘barbers’ pole, with 12 national flags – South Africa’s among them) in a circle around it. The smaller True South Pole is some 60 metres away at 90 degrees exactly and with only a modest sign beside it. 

We walked the kilometer back to the plane (waiting right near the campsite) into a biting wind of 30 km an hour – creating a temperature of minus 42 degrees C which was vicious on any exposed skin–yet twice I had to tell Nzuzo, who was walking beside me, to cover his nose.  It was as if he still didn’t ‘get it’. You don’t mess with extreme conditions! 

By late afternoon we were at Union Glacier – appreciably warmer than the high plateau – and with snacks and Chilean champagne laid out on a table outside. Very impressive! As was the meal laid on inside …..congria and vegetables, beautifully cooked and with beer and wine ad lib. Amazing – deep in Antartica. 

We were back on the Iluyshin 76 the next evening. I found myself next to the navigator in the windowed nose tip of this giant aircraft at 30 000 feet above the Weddel Sea. At 3 am in the morning, sipping whiskey and sparkling water, and pondering over an incredible adventure as we headed for Punta…

The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879

The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879

Speaker:   Timothy Twidle

In the mists of time, Africa South of the Limpopo, was an endless land of scattered riches and infinite variety. The continental divide crowded the eastern coast, fencing off a well-watered belt that rounded the southern end of the divide and broadened out into fertile country. 

The first fully fledged humans to roam the fastnesses of Southern Africa were the San, nomadic hunter-gatherers with peppercorn hair and a language of delicate complexity. 

About eleven hundred years ago a new race entered the southern part of Africa, travelling down the western coast until they rounded the southern tip and turned north. These were the Khoikhoi and no one knows from whence they came or what mixture of blood ran through their veins. The Khoikhoi kept cattle and tended crops. 

The first Europeans came by sea. Bartholomew Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope in February 1488 and dropped anchor in Mossel Bay.By the middle of the seventeenth century the Dutch had driven the ships of Portugal from the India trade. The Dutch made Table Bay their only point of landfall between The Netherlands and the East. On 6 April 1652, one Jan van Riebeck anchored in the waters beneath what is today called Table Mountain, with orders from the United Chartered East India Company, to land and build an earthen fort, plant a vegetable garden and acquire cattle by barter with the local people. 

Within a hundred years of van Riebeck’s landing a new race had been born, peoplewho went under the name of Boer, meaning farmer.For five full generations the Boer race pushed the frontier ever eastward along the southern perimeter of Africa. By the 1750s there were farms at Algoa Bay. In the 1770s the frontier turned and started to follow the long smooth coastal curve to the north. 

Then, beside  the Great Fish River, the foremost Boers collided with the southward migration of the tribes of Africa.  They were semi-nomadic and moved through the continent at the pace of their cattle. By the fourteenth century they were south of the Zambesi and in the sixteenth century a huge swathe of clans, the Nguni family, peeled off into the upper reaches of present day South Africa. Three of the Nguni groups, the Mtetwa, the Lala and the Debe settled in the area that is today called KwaZulu-Natal (Tonga clans moved to the north and Xhosa and Ntungwa groups spread to the south along the coastal strip.) When the tribal clansmen of Africa ran into the Boer frontiersmen in the valley of the Great Fish River it was their last free movement; they had been given a continent and 10 000 years in which to fill it and they had dallied a little too long. 

As the Boers waxed the fortunes of the Dutch waned. The British had entered the trade to the Indies and a series of wars sapped Dutch maritime strength.  In 1795, amidst the turmoil of The French Revolution, the English took the Cape away from the Dutch. The following year the United Chartered East India Company, long moribund, went bankrupt; but although the Dutch regained the Cape in 1803, they lost it again in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. This time the English stayed. 

As in a Shakespearian tragedy, the players had made their entrances and introductions and were duly assembled–the drama was about to unfold to a calamitous climax.

The Nguni were a happy people with a live-and-let-live attitude to life. They had little sense  of purpose. They lacked written records, they lacked wheels, had no mechanisms for trade and no machinery, but they did possess a vibrant and growing populace. Raid and counter-raid of cattle, part of the daily run of life, were invariably settled by a stand-off between the aggrieved parties in a show of force that usually amounted to little more than an exchange of taunts and admonishments. As more and more clans congested the coastal strip, the situation was ripe for change – and, as cometh the hour, so cometh the man. In about 1787 one Nandi of the eLangeni clan became ‘with child’ by Senzangakona, chief of the amaZulu…As circumstances would have it,  Shaka grew up for much of his youth in the Zulu fold, before he and Nandi were required to leave and seek refuge elsewhere….  Shaka developed into a magnificent specimen of manhood, tall and immensely strong, he rose to prominence as a revered warrior of the Mtetwa. When Senzangakona died in 1816, Shaka, after a struggle, emerged with the headship of the Zulus, who had commenced their march to greatness. 

The Zulus who, it is thought, were barely 5000 in number at this time, were transformed by the relentless zeal and energy of Shaka. Neighbouring clans and kraals were subjugated by way of fast, brutal raids and the survivors incorporated into the Zulu hegemony; the young men being immediately drafted into the Zulu army. The raids fanned out to the north, east and south, mopping up people in their thousands. In the space of three years the Shaka,Äôs domain expanded from 100 square miles to 11 500, from the Pongola River in the north to the Tugela River in the south and from the coast inland to the Blood River. The Zulu army now numbered 20 000. 

And it was the army above all else that was to lead the Zulu people to greatness as a nation. Shaka did away with the throwing assegai and had made stabbing assegais, with a short haft. Each warrior had a shield made of hide, that gave protection to virtually the entire body. The army was divided up into regiments and a new modus operandi of attack evolved. An attacking force or impi was split into four, one that engaged immediately with the enemy, another that raced out at speed in wide flanking manoeuvres to encircle the foe. A reserve, the ÄòLoins,Äô,  sat with its back to the battle, so as not to become over-excited. To improve the speed and agility of an imp, Shaka discarded the rawhide sandals that had hitherto been worn by warriors. When grumbling ensued, Shaka had the warriors dance on an area of bare ground that had been sprinkled with thorns and then ordered the summary execution of all those not fully engaged –   the Zulu feet hardened rapidly. Zulus, already robust from a life in the open, were drilled until the regiments could travel 50 miles in a day, trotting tirelessly over the rolling, trackless hills, living off cattle and stored grain from the kraals they passed and accompanied only by uDibi boys carrying their sleeping mats and cooking pots. 

Shaka built a new kraal and lived in regal fashion with his own retinue of cooks and retainers. There was a Royal Barber, who paid with his life for the slightest cut of the royal chin and who was required each day to collect the royal stubble, burn it and then scatter the ashes in a river. There was also a Receiver of the Royal Spittle, the receptacle being the back of the worthy individual who occupied this position of responsibility. 

As the reign of Shaka grew ever more tyrannical and burdensome, discontent simmered and on 22 September 1828  his half-brother Dingane and another assassinated the founding king of the Zulu nation.  

Dingane reigned for the next twelve years and the genial Mpande enjoyed the tenure of the Zulu throne from 1840 until 1872, during which time the country flourished and strengthened. Then his first son Cetshwayo ka Mpande was crowned as the Zulu monarch in 1873, at which time the Zulu nation was believed to number some 300 000 people and there were over 100 000 head of royal cattle. 

Central to the story of The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 is the founding of the colony of Natal. 

The coast of present-day KwaZulu-Natal saw a succession of wrecks from the India trade throughout the eighteenth century and survivors struggled ashore to either safety, by way of a long walk to Cape Town, a slow death or refuge with a tribal clan. The first proper settlement of the coast was made by way of a landing at Port Natal in April of 1824 by Henry Francis Fynn, who led ashore a party of 30 people to start a settlement. Other leading names in the pioneering years of what was later to become the colony of Natal are Francis George Farewell, Nathaniel Isaacs and James Saunder King. The fortunes of the early settlers flickered and flared and they were beholden at all times to treat with Shaka in a manner of the utmost deference. But the spark was lit and was not to be extinguished. A column of trek-boers led by Pieter Retief entered Natal in 1837 and for a while tried to set up their own Republic of Natal with a capital at Pietermaritzburg (named after Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz). The intransigence of both Boer and Briton led to armed conflict, during which time Durban was besieged, to be relieved only as a result of the heroic ride of Dick King to Grahamstown. In 1845 Great Britain annexed Natal and its life as a Crown Colony began. Exasperated, the Boers packed their wagons and departed to other climes. 

By the beginning of 1846, Natal was able to look forward to a period of prolonged peace, The colony could probably count some 3 000 settlers and was under British administration; Zululand was ruled by the benevolent Mpande. 

Beyond all other names that of John William Colenso, Doctor of Divinity and the first Bishop of Natal is woven into the early history of Natal. Colenso came to the colony in 1854; he was a classical scholar, with an incisive intellect, a profound sense of fairness and unremitting energy. In the years ahead, Colenso wrote the first orthography of the Zulu language and was to champion the cause of justice for the Zulu nation; to the Zulus he was always Sobantu ,Äì – Father of The People. 

On the border of the eastern Cape Colony in July 1878, Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, Governor-General of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner of Native Affairs for South Africa, instructed Lieutenant-General the Hon Frederic Augustus Thesiger – vested with command of the Imperial forces in South Africa – to prepare for war with the Zulu nation. 

A man of exceptional ability and much experience, Frere was one of the very few with the vision  of Southern Africa as a single arena, in whicheach and every  piece of the jigsaw had cause and effect. Frere was for confederation, which inevitably would include Zululand. In such an arrangement, subjugated clans might retain their tribal way of life; but an independent Zulu nation with a standing army of 40000 warriors, at the whim of a Zulu monarch, sharing  200 miles of common  frontiers with Natal, was simply unthinkable. 

British policy-makers decided on a preventive war to destroy the Zulu nation. One prerequisite was a casus belli. Frere thought the rationale might be found in the results of a Boundary Commission set up to investigate counter claims over an area of  ‘Disputed land’ that ran north from Rorke’s Drift on the Buffalo River, along the eastern bank of the Blood River, to a point to some 20 miles north-west of Hlobane. When the commission largely upheld Zulu claims in and to the area under dispute, Frere presented the Zulu king with a list of ten demands that verged on high farce. For  complaints about and reparations for cattle raids, there were set down instructions that the Zulu army be disbanded; that a  ‘British Diplomatic Resident’ would  take up office in Zululand; and that any further military matters, such as the defence of Zululand, would be carried out only in consultation with the British Resident.

The ultimatum was presented to a delegation of Zulu inDunas on 11 December 1878, at an indaba held beneath a large fig tree on the banks of the lower Tugela River. Cetshwayo was given 30 days to comply with the terms of the ultimatum. The Zulu king was willing to pay the cattle fines but the other demands were not taken seriously. On Saturday 11 January 1879 Frere issued a bulletin, which started by saying that “British Forces are crossing into Zululand to exact from Cetshwayo reparations for violations of British territory…”. 

The commander of the British forces Lord Chelmsford (Thesiger having succeeded to his father’s title in  October 1878) led into Zululand 16 800 men in three principal columns. Chelmsford travelled with the central column, which was ferried across the Buffalo River at Rorke’s Drift in the early hours of the morning of 11 January. Colonel Charles Knight Pearson’s  Foot Regiment led the column that crossed into Zululand at the lower drift of the Tugela, to the north of Stanger;  and Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Evelyn Wood was officer commanding of the northernmost column that forded the upper reaches of the Blood River to enter the kingdom of Cetshwayo. The British field force had at its disposal  two million rounds of ammunition, ample stores, 113 two-wheeled carts, 612 wagons and 7 626 commissariat oxen, horses and mules, while several hundred additional wagons relayed stores up from Natal.   Preparing such a force had required months of planning and staff work, that had begun in August 1878 and which for the most part had been overseen by Chelmsford himself. 

Ulundi, the site of Cetshwayo’s kraal, lay 50 miles away as the crow flies and a considerably greater distance given  the hills and over the broken ground of Zululand. A week after the start of the invasion, the central column was established in camp at the foot of a peak called Isandhlwana, that in Zulu meant the second stomach of a ruminant. It was a good site that afforded sound defence in the lee of the mountain. There were wide sweeping vistas for miles ahead and the Nqutu plateau, that loomed over the encampment some five furlongs to the north east, could be watched by vedettes. The immediate priority for Chelmsford was to locate the Zulu impi. For days mounted patrols searched far and wide, to no avail. 

Early on the morning of Wednesday 22 January Chelmsford decided to take the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment (approximately 1000 men) some ten miles to the east of the camp, to the relief of a detachment of troops, who it was believed had located a vanguard of the main Zulu impi; it was a decision that was to have unimaginable consequences. 

For the nonce the search for the Zulu impi continued in the environs of Isandhlwana; Chelmsford himself together with a small party had ridden across the Nqutu plateau on the afternoon of 21 January without so much as sighting any Zulus. 

During the morning of 22 January a lone horseman, patrolling on the orders of Brevet Colonel Anthony William Durnford,  now in command of the camp at Isandhlwana, gave chase to some Zulus herding cattle. As the horseman closed in, he suddenly pulled up at the edge of a ravine in order to not topple over the edge. The sight that greeted the rider left him aghast: at the bottom of the ravine, stretching for as far as the eye could see, were 20 000 Zulu warriors sitting in utter silence. The impi had finally been located. There was a long moment of electric tension as the Zulus craned their necks to look up at the lone horseman outlined in stark silhouette against the sky; whilst the mounted trooper, in turn, stared down at the impi in shock and disbelief. 

As the horseman turned, the Zulu Host rose as one, scrambled out of the ravine and began a long loping run towards Isandhlwana, which was four miles distant. Within 25 minutes, advance units of the Zulu regiments came streaming over the spur at the edge of the Nqutu plateau towards the British line in numbers that seemed endless. The right horn swung behind the mountain; the chest descended to the plain in front of the most forward positions of the camp; and the left horn ran in a wide arc towards a saddle that connected Isandhlwana with a nearby koppie. The Zulu force stretched in an immense tide across the front line of the defenders and, as the initial volleys crashed out, the fire took a crippling toll of the Zulus. 

This was the battle that everybody had wanted – with the Zulu power immolating itself on Imperial volley fire. 

Initially it did go well for the British, but a flicker of concern started to pass over some of the officers. Here and there the firing became erratic as some men slipped out of the line in order to requisition more ammunition. As most of the troops had joined battle with 40 to 50 rounds of ammunition, that was soon expended. Drawing fresh ammunition meant a written requisition and opening a heavy wooden ammunition box fastened with two copper bands and nine large screws. The ammunition boxes had not been laid open at the start of the battle and the supply and availability of ammunition to the soldiers of the line was simply insufficient; so the firing began to slacken. 

There were two further inadequacies to the British order of battle: instead of the companies being drawn into a tight defensive formation, they were spread out; and units of native auxiliaries were posted at some critical junctures. 

The Zulu warriors noted the diminishing rate of fire; and from the Zulu ranks a voice cried out invoking one of Cetshwayo’s  many praise names: The Little Branch of Leaves That Extinguished the Fire gave no such order as this!  Thousands of Zulus heard him and took fresh heart. The impi that had been relatively quiet stamped their feet and rattled their assegais against their shields, shouting war cries. 

To a man, two companies of the Natal Native Contingent fled the field of battle in confusion, leaving a gaping hole in the line of defence. The Zulu regiments poured in and many British troops were taken from behind, unaware that the enemy had breached the perimeter of the camp. From that point on, organised resistance ceased and the result of the battle was all but inevitable. Here and there pockets of soldiers formed themselves into ‘hedgehogs’ and fought until the last. By four o’clock in the afternoon it was all over:  the slaughter of the battle and  the subsequent pursuit of those fleeing the scene of carnage were complete. 

There had been 1 800 men in the camp at Isandhlwana at noon and perhaps 350 survived. The entire baggage train had been either looted or fired;  and the work of six months of preparations lay in ruins. 

The Zulus departed the camp consumed by raging thirst and a great hunger; they had given battle with a high-hearted courage and fought in their great tradition.   The warriors streamed back across the Nqutu plateau and by nightfall, the greatest military force that Africa had ever assembled had dispersed.

Chelmsford, who had been receiving conflicting messages throughout the afternoon, marched into the camp at Isandhlwana during the evening, leading the force he had left with in the morning together with those he had joined, to a scene of utter devastation.

Later that same day the uThlwana and uDloko regiments of the Undi Corps attacked the supply station at Rorke’s  Drift. There a single company of some 150 men of the 2nd battalion the 24th Regiment of Foot held at bay an attacking force of  4000 Zulu warriors into the early hours of 23 January, over a period of ten hours. After grievous losses, the Zulus conceded defeat and withdrew. The defenders had been arrayed in serried ranks behind barricades  of bags filled with mealies and piled biscuit boxes. Firm and sensible command had carried the day at Rorke’s Drift.  Eleven Victoria Cross decorations were awarded to men of the force that had defended Rorke’s Drift. 

Following the disaster at Isandhlwana, Natal was seized with panic and was in fear of a Zulu impi descending on the Colony. As it happened, Cetshwayo had given strict instructions to his commanders that they were under no circumstances to cross the southern border of Zululand into Natal.   Dabulamanzi, Cetshwayo,Äôs half-brother, who led the attack  on Rorke’s Drift had disobeyed the orders of the Zulu monarch. 

Lord Chelmsford rode into Pietermaritzburg with his staff on the evening of Sunday 26 January, by which time the town had been turned into a fortified bastion. Chelmsford had a clear conscience;  he had left sufficient strength to defend Isandhlwana and the proper tactics to be employed in the event of an attack being mounted on the camp were known to the most junior of officers. 

The colony and soldiers of the British Force sought a scapegoat and the onus of blame fell on Durnford, who had been in command at the time of the battle.  Frances Colenso (daughter of Bishop Colenso) who had for some time conducted a discreet love affair with Durnford, leapt like a tigress to defend the Durnford name. But it is hard to see that anyone else was ultimately responsible for one of the most notorious failings in the annals of British military history. 

Reinforcements were awaited from England and in the interim every town, village, settlement and farmstead in Natal was defended with whatever was available. 

The right flank column under the command of Colonel Pearson crossed the lower Tugela on 11 January and advanced as far as Eshowe, having bested Zulu attacks at Inyezane and Gingindhlovu. By the end of February however Pearson and 1 700 other combatants had succeeded only in becoming besieged at Eshowe and would have to wait until 3 April for relief.

The combination of the disaster to the central column at Isandhlwana and the Pearson column becoming bottled-up in Eshowe, meant that the left flank column had no strategic role, although it could harry the enemy. Luckily it had the services of two very capable officers – Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Evelyn Wood VC in overall command; Major Redvers Buller heading up the Frontier Light Horse, a mounted squadron of some 600 volunteers. On 28 March Buller led an attack across five miles of the flat-topped mountain of Hlobane; it was an indecisive encounter that failed to dislodge a force of approximately 2000  Zulu warriors.  On 29 March, an impi of 18 000 warriors attacked at Kambula,  south-west of Hlobane. Wood had 2 700 men securely entrenched behind laagered wagons and the attack was rebuffed; the Zulus lost over 2 000 men in a withering cross-fire whilst the British dead amounted to precisely 29 men, further proof, if any were needed, that the defeat at Isandhlwana had been brought about by ineffectual command. 

Reinforcements arrived from England during April and Chelmsford launched a second invasion of Zululand on 31 May, crossing the Blood River at Koppie Allein, twenty miles to the north of Rorke’s Drift, with a force of some 10 000 troops, 16 field pieces and four Gatling guns. The route to Ulundi, site of the royal kraal, was circuitous and undulating. The column initially trekked fifteen miles north-east to the Tombokola River, a tributary of the White Umfolozi, where a further disaster befell the British adventure in Zululand. The Prince Imperial of France, Napoleon Eugene Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, who was serving as an aide-de-camp to Lord Chelmsford, was killed in ambush by a party of Zulus. 

The column then turned south-east before picking up the road to Ulundi, south of Ibanongo. The total distance covered was about 80 miles. Chelmsford reached the vicinity of Ulundi at the end of June and gave battle on 4 July. The Zulus attacked a strong British square with 20 000 men, all that remained of the young manhood of the nation. The Zulu regiments came on hesitantly, there was not the ferocity of the previous encounters, and were scythed down by repeated volleys of breech-loaded firearms, four ranks deep. 

No Zulu got to within 30 yards of the British line and after half an hour the square was ringed with dead bodies. An hour into the battle and the momentum of the Zulu attack faltered, the impi started to retreat and the 17th Lancers were sent out in pursuit. Thousands more of the House of Shaka died at Ulundi – the Zulu nation had been vanquished. About 8 000 Zulu warriors died in the war and twice that number were wounded. The official British returns, listed 1083 men killed in action. 

Chelmsford departed his command in South Africa on 27 July having to all intents and purposes  been superseded by General Sir Garnet Wolseley, who had been appointed Governor of Natal and of the Transvaal,m among other responsibilities.  Wolseley’s most immediate task was to capture Cetshwayo, who had fled the field of Ulundi following the loss of the battle and destruction of his kraal. The Zulu king was eventually run to ground north of the Black Umfolozi River, some 20 miles from Ulundi, during the last week of August. Cetshwayo was initially held in Cape Town and in 1882 sailed to England with a small entourage. Cetshwayo was immensely popular in London and large crowds gathered outside the house in Kensington where he stayed. He returned to Zululand in 1883 and was restored as the monarch of the Zulu people, but in name only. Cetshwayo had lost half of his kingdom and the remainder had been sub-divided into thirteen kinglets (a classic example of imposing tutelage by means of divide and rule).  His power was gone. He died on 8 February 1884. 

In 1906, sparked by the imposition of additional taxation, the Bambatha Rebellion symbolised the end of the Zulu nation; it was the last Zulu rising and accounted for 2 300 deaths. 

Within 33 years of the ending of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the prevailing political force in present-day South Africa was founded. 

During the latter half of the twentieth century there were people who could recall The Battle of Isandhlwana in which the greatest army Africa has ever fielded annihilated an imperial squadron equipped with the most modern military equipment of the day. 

The Zulu peoples of South Africa presently number some 11.9 million and constitute 23.8 per cent  of the population. At the time when Shaka assumed the paramountcy in 1816, it is believed that their numbers were little more than 5000. Today the President of The Republic of South Africa is a man of Zulu descent, fiercely loyal to the culture and history of his people. 

Zululand has changed little since the war of 1879. Dusty roads snake over rolling hills, scarred with dongas and the sites of the battlefields are marked with whitewashed cairns. 

There is a stone arch to mark the site of the British square at Ulundi.  And on one wall a plaque reads:

IN MEMORY OF THE BRAVE WARRIORS WHO FELL HERE IN 1879 IN DEFENCE OF THE OLD ZULU ORDER. It is the only memorial that has ever been erected to honour the Zulu nation.