Abandoned old radar station

On 16 December, we hiked up to the top of a rocky hill overlooking the far-away suburb of Kommetjie in the Southern Peninsula. Our group consisted of students and lecturers from the Radar Remote Sensing Group at the University of Cape Town, as well as various people from industry in the field of radar, remote sensing and electronic defence.

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of radar in South Africa. Our reason for doing this hike was to visit the abandoned old radar station, known as Cobra Camp, ontop of Slangkop. (I kept my eyes peeled for signs of the slithery residents of the fynbos, but fortunately didn’t come across any of them.)

Cobra Camp is the site of a JB1 radar, which is the first series of operational South African radars, built by Dr Basil Schonland at the University of the Witwatersrand in Joburg, in 1939.  This particular radar station was constructed here sometime during World War 2, i.e. in the 1940s, as German submarines were active in these waters at the time. It was one of many radar stations located in strategic and elevated positions all along the South African coastline. The view from up there is indeed spectacular. The barracks – which is the main red-brick building – used to house the military personnel who were responsible for manning the radar and keeping a lookout for enemy ships.

My reason for going along was to capture some photographs for the website on the taught Masters in Radar and Electronic Defence/Warfare programme, which I am responsible for updating. It was a pleasant and easy walk to the site, and fun to explore the ruins – which are sadly heavily vandalised and graffiti’d. Prof Mike Inggs of the Radar Remote Sensing Group and Francois Anderson of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research kept us spellbound with their fascinating stories about the birth of SA radar and the particulars of the coastal sites.

It was a wonderful morning’s outing and great to be hiking again.


4 thoughts on “Abandoned old radar station

    • I know what you mean, Truels; there is something intriguing about abandoned places – they evoke a sense of mystery and a desire to find out more about the history and the people who lived and worked there.

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