Winter School 2021


Professor Emeritus John Compton, Department of Geological Sciences, UCT

Whether you live here or just happen to be passing through, the many facets of the West Coast leave an imprint upon each of us, giving us a ‘sense of place’ – the sum of all that we take in from our surroundings. This course begins by defining the West Coast and then takes participants from Cape Town to Yzerfontein, via Bloubergstrand, Koeberg, !Khwa-ttu San Heritage Centre, and Darling Hills. The third lecture travels to the West Coast Fossil Park and West Coast National Park. It takes in beaches, lagoons, and sand dunes and reflects on the demise of the hippo and newer threats to the environment. The fourth lecture features Namaqualand with its desert, diamonds, and dust, and offers views of Vanrhyns Pass, the Great Escarpment, Springbok, the Orange River and Lüderitz. The final lecture provides a deep geological traverse through the Cape Fold Belt and the Cape Supergroup, with reference to Cape Town, Paarl, Bain’s Kloof, Ceres, Karoopoort and the Tankwa Karoo.  This series of travelogues touches upon various aspects of the natural history of the West Coast, exploring how its many habitats and life forms have evolved through time and how we humans are having an increasingly large impact. Our human ‘footprint’ has become so large as to lead many to propose that we are now living in the Anthropocene (human epoch). 


  1. Defining the West Coast
  2. The power of place: calling the West Coast home
  3. The West Coast 5 million years ago
  4. How the new human ecology is redefining the West Coast
  5. Future challenges in the age of the Anthropocene


Recommended reading

Compton, J. 2021. West Coast: A Natural History. Cape Town: Earthspun Books.

Compton, J. 2016. The Rocks & Mountains of Cape Town. Cape Town: Earthspun Books.

Compton, J. 2016. Human Origins: How diet, climate and landscape shaped us. Cape Town: Earthspun Books.


If you wish to learn more or want to buy any of these books, you can visit, where you will also find links to YouTube videos on the geology of the Cape Town area.


DATES: Monday 26–Friday 30 July 2021        
TIME: 3.00 pm–4.00 pm
COURSE FEES: R375