In a manner of speaking, the
salt pans which span over the northern areas of Port Elizabeth, are its mineral
wealth. Unlike the mines in the north, their minerals are easy to extract
without expensive machinery or underground excavations. Furthermore their
lifespan is measured in millennia and not decades.
It is thought that in all
likelihood, these salt pans have been used for millennia but not on an
organised basis by the local Khoikhoi. The saline deposits of this
district have long been famous, but until the arrival of the settlers, there had
been no attempt at systematic development. It was the
entrepreneurial spirits of the settlers that turned this untapped resource into
an asset for the area.
Main picture: Swartkops Salt pans
Imagine if I told you that 250 years ago a Swedish botanist by the name of Thunberg spotted a herd of 500 buffaloes in the area 20 minutes from the centre of Port Elizabeth called Kragga Kamma. First all the large animals were eliminated and then the smaller ones. Today all that remains is a recently opened small game park in the area. Apart from that, originally the area from Cape Recife to Humewood to Bushy Park was one giant field of sand dunes. Sadly this natural wonder has been replaced with Port Jackson Willows. What size was Port Elizabeth before the arrival of the Settlers?
Some of these developments were beneficial but others were disastrous. It depends upon one’s point of view. But such is the cost of progress.
Main picture: Hunting in Bushy Park