Spring and the Old Normal

‘When Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil.’

Reginald Heber(1783–1826); Hymn for Seventh Sunday after Trinity.

The 1st of September is traditionally the first day of spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. In literature and social history spring has long been associated with new beginnings, and in 2020 this could not be more relevant as the world struggles to escape the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. Admittedly we have an advantage here in the south, as the north heads into autumn and the cold season, but this may not be all doom and gloom for our northern cousins; there is some scientific basis for believing that colder weather can stem the flow of the virus. We hope so – right now here in cape Town we have the best of both possible worlds; spring is on our doorstep yet as this article goes to press there is snow on Table Mountain, a somewhat rare occurrence! Perhaps Mother Earth didn’t get the memo about Spring kicking off this week.

Here at Waterfront Charters we are optimistic that the burgeoning of new life in nature will herald positive changes, and we have geared up for a steady return to normal operations. We are currently in that grey area between complete lockdown and hesitant emergence; there are still many questions over what can and what can’t be done on a social level. As we have said many times in previous articles, Waterfront Charters will follow all safety protocols, recommended and mandatory. In synch with the V&A Waterfront, we are determined to see tourism rise again from the shackles imposed since March – the only way we can ensure this is by showing that tourists and visitors are at no greater risk when at the Waterfront than any other attraction. We are confident in the measures that are in place – at times they may seem a little onerous, but the alternatives are far, far worse. Bear with us as we head towards freedom of travel, breathing, cruising and dining: we can’t wait either.

Spring: the name itself is one of those obvious connections – as the earth and atmosphere warms, so new life ‘springs forth’. In simplistic terms spring is the result of the earth’s inclination, and its tilt as it revolves relative to the sun allows the sun’s warming rays to hit the surface at a more direct angle over a wider area. Which gives a lie to those who might still think that we are closer to the sun during spring and summer. They tend to forget that the earth rotates… (This may sound daft, but bear in mind that there are still a lot of people who believe the earth is flat. No kidding – they really do exist.) It’s not as simple as a tilt, mind you: there are many other less predictable events that can give rise to early or late changes of season. Which may have some bearing on that snow on our mountain, come to think of it. These factors are complex – long term rain and solar cycles and other events created by ocean currents and ocean temperatures, for example the El Niño effect, the Southern Oscillation Index and many other, more local occurrences. These aberrations compound each other; a change in rainfall patterns – something we are very aware of here in the Cape – can be exacerbated by a change in solar cycle. Put them together and the result can be a two year drought. Or not: it depends on who you ask – that’s the trouble with the universe’s complexities, they often defy projections and prediction. It wasn’t too long ago that the experts were telling us that ‘Western Cape drought was the new normal’: they forgot to send that memo to Mother Nature as well, judging by the constant rain, filling dams, the brilliant greens of our fynbos and the spectacular flower displays on the West Coast.

One of the issues we have with spring here in the south is the fact that most received wisdom around spring stems from the northern latitudes. After all, they have been measuring, observing, noting and studying patterns a lot longer than we have down here. And literature abounds with references to flowers, birds and events quite alien to the south; it’s only over the past century or so that we have been collating and growing our knowledge. The reasons for the differences are mostly geological, as one would expect: the north has a far greater landmass than the south, and the continents down here have no land-bridges. As a result of this – and the vastly greater amount of ocean in the southern hemisphere – cold air from the Antarctic is mitigated by the passage over large ocean tracts, warming it prior to land fall. We have a circumpolar flow air that is also uninterrupted by landmasses, the aptly names roaring 40’s and 50’s. These westerlies have been both a boon and a bane to sailors since sails were first set in the south. The margins of these winds shift on occasion, causing changes in the seasons too, another of the many factors to take into account when trying to look at the timing of the break of spring.

But…so what! The calendar says it’s spring! Just as the ‘new normal’ of drought has faded into memory, so will the Covid-19 scare. It’s been a trial, and it’s not over yet, but we make this prediction: in a few years’ time we will all be looking back and saying, “Remember when we all had to wear masks?!” Join us as we put life back on an even keel here at Waterfront Charters; we are reintroducing our cruises at a steady rate, and all details are here on the website. We have ongoing promotions to make things easier in tough times, and we are there for all our guests, both regular and new.

Looking forward to the ‘old normal’ again, very soon!