The Noon Gun has been a historic time signal in Cape Town since 1806 and it is in deference to its importance that its location just above the city centre is known as Signal Hill.
There were no telephones or telegraphs before the latter half of the 19th century and the sound of the guns travelled much faster than a dispatch rider on a horse. The guns were therefore considered the ideal method by which to announce the arrival of a ship to residents living in the interior.
More significantly, guns were given the task of firing a noon time signal since 1806. Knowledge of the exact moment of noon was vital in the calculation of longitude and in an age of exploration any harbour would pride itself on its accuracy.
After the advent of the galvanic telegraph, it became possible to trigger a gun remotely and since 1864 the Noon Gun has been fired from the master clock of the oldest timekeeper in the country, the South African Astronomical Observatory. One day in June 1895 the gun fired at 10:30 rather than 12:00 when a spider interfered with the relay used to remotely fire the gun.
The original guns – 18-pounder, smoothbore muzzle-loaders are still in use today. The ritual represents one of Cape Town’s oldest living traditions and these are the oldest guns in daily use in the world. They fire every day at 12 noon sharp, except Sundays and public holidays and are maintained by the South African Navy.
Venue: Noon Gun, Lion Battery, Military Rd, Bo Kaap, Cape Town
Time: 11.30am for 12pm (to watch the daily ritual)