When I grew up in Langebaan,it was a small village comprising mostly of
fisherfolk,Air Force personnel and their families,a few holiday homes and a
few others.There was Donkergat and its whaling station and its all-pervasive,gutt-wrenching stench if the wind was blowing from that direction.We were ,however,quite accustomed to the stink,as we were to seeing enormous Blue whales,Sperm whales and smaller species being towed into the bay,accompanied by swarms of Ragged-tooth and Blue-pointer sharks which fed off the carcases untill they were dragged up the slipway to be met by the Norwegians and their flensing-knives.
We hardly ever got used to the other smell of our town,though.When the
Pearl-Oyster company,situated where the Yacht Club is situated today,starts burning the crushed oyster shell to turn it into a grit that was used
as goodness knows what,we bravely tried to ignore that smell which drove most adults to spend longer hours in the Panoramic Hotel.
The pearl-oyster was dredged by enormous flat-bottomed barges which
steamed all the way up the lagoon to where the enormous deposits of fossilised pearl-oyster lie.
Did I mention the familiar smells of fresh fish netted in the channels of the lagoon by the fishing-families,the Haarder and Maasbanker-bokkoms?
And the flowers and the koekmakranka's and swimming at Preekstoel and the taking of crayfish from waist-deep water in gulleys on the ocean side of Postberg and how the whole Lagoon seemed to die after the then government built a harbour in the bay towards Saldanha and thereby diverted the sea currents and allowed a million years of pristine ecosystem
to change forever.The fish went ,the musselbanks died,the channels known by generations of sea-lovers closed or changed direction within weeks,and Langebaan became a holiday resort and ordinary folk,the salt of the earth folk,sold their properties and left.
I often visit Langebaan.I am happy that Sanparks is doing such tremendous work in managing the magnificent biodiversity found in the West Coast National Park.I am proud to take my grand-children to Geelbek
and Churchhaven.I am not, however,able to have them understand the smells which are no longer there....