is in the stars and the /Xam (Cape Bushman or San) who lived in the
Karoo highlands for more than 25 000 years, knew
just that. They had a remarkably extensive knowledge of the stars and
used it extensively to organise their way of life. Today we still look
at the stars, planets and distant galaxies. This is done from the
all-important South African Astronomical Observatory near Sutherland
where huge telescopes are used like giant eyes to probe the Milky Way.
very informative guided tour is offered at the observatory.
Africa and its international partners have joined forces to build the
largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, with a
hexagonal array 11 meters across, sensitive enough to detect the light
of a single candle on the moon. With its giant mirror, the SALT will be able to record
the scale and age of the universe, distant stars, galaxies and
quasars a billion times too faint to seen with the unaided eye.
The total telescope cost will be approximately US$30 million, of
which South Africa contributed a third and the balance was provided by
design was based on a modified version of the Hobby-Eberley Telescope in
primary mirror consists of 91 interchangeable hexagonal mirror segments,
each mirror segment is 1 metre wide and weights approximately 100
Karoo highlands is an ideal venue for stargazing because there is no
light pollution and most nights are cloudless. The high
elevation above sea level allow gazers, aided by their equipment, to
see the entire Southern Hemisphere and even to peer deep into the
Northern Hemisphere. It is from here that we record the birth of
distant galaxies and finding new planets. The Southern African Large
Telescope (SALT), with a mirror of 11 m in diameter, is currently
being constructed at the observatory. SALT is the largest telescope in
the Southern Hemisphere and this is why we claim to be the gateway to
the height of 1404 metres above sea level, forty five kilometres from
Sutherland, is one of the most spectacular routes across the Roggeveld
mountains.It was one of the first routes used by the pioneer farmers from
Ceres Karoo to the Roggeveld and later on to the village of Sutherland. Ox
wagons were the only mode of transport. For more than eighty years this pass
was also used by the farmers for their seasonal trek with the sheep. The Fish
River Farmers Union and the community of Sutherland, who helped to finance the
project, requested a proper road. In 1968 the Public Works Department of
Sutherland started to build the road and it was finished in 1969.
Louwhouse is the birthplace of the poet/writer brothers N.P. van Wyk
Louw and W.E.G. Louw. The house with tender memories of all
mercies received, wonderful words and great thoughts, was built in
1861 but was not restored in it's original form. The well known concave
veranda is one of those additions. Behind the house was a large yard
where a water tank and a stable for the two cart horses and stallion
belonging to their father Molkie Louw were kept. At present the house
is used as a literary museum, and also to honour Sutherlanders
who have left their mark in society. Also see Louw
NP van Wyk Louw
Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk
Louw was born at Sutherland on June 11th 1906. He was second in line of four
brothers, of which the youngest was W E G Louw the poet. Their parents Von
Moltke and Poppie Louw with their family moved to
Cape Town in 1920. The young
Van Wyk studied at Cape Town University and received a MA degree in German,
later he became lecturer at this university. In 1948 he received an
honours degree from Utrecht University for his critique and creative works. In
1949 he became a Professor of Afrikaans at the University of Amsterdam, he held
this post until 1958. After that he became Head of Department Afrikaans-Dutch
at the University of Witwatersrand.
received various literary prizes: Hertzog prize for prose, drama and poetry.
The S.A.B.C. prize for radio plays and the C.N.A.-literary prize. Some of his most well
known works are the thesis in Afrikaans, Raka, Gestaltes en Diere, and
N P Van Wyk Louw died
one week after his sixty fourth birthday on
18th June 1979
At the beginning of the
century the Roggeveld was divided into three parts. The Northern part,which is
now Calvinia district,was called the Underveld. Between Aapenberg and Komsberg was
known as Mid-Roggeveld,today it is known as "Sutherland Roggeveld" or
" South Roggeveld". The Small-Roggeveld which kept its name, is
bordered by the mountains at Komsberg,where the ridge of the Central highland
meets the border.
The earliest information
about the winter trek was documented by i.e. Thunberg 1774 and Buchell 1811. The
trek of the farmers and their animals from the Roggeveld mountains to the warmer
below are still taking place annually. The farmers always go to the same place
every year and it is called their lair.
spent in the
is dependant on various circumstances and can change from year to year. The trek
usually starts after the first rainfall or after crop sowing, mostly between 15
May and 15 June.
Because of the high
altitude of the Roggeveld, temperatures drop drastically. It is told that a
farmer lost eighty goats due to a snowstorm on New Years day and that is
summertime, imagine the cold in winter. The area gets winter rains and a
combination of cold and wet causes many problems for the farmers in the
mountains. The nutritional value of the veld also varies from one season to the
next. The best nutrition for the sheep is in the spring. As from January it
deteriorates gradually until winter when it is at its worst. Because of the cold
and rain there is no growth. It is generally accepted by the farmers that the
veld must rest during the winter months.
the cold temperatures, winter lambing is a big problem. Farmers often have to get up during night time to look after new born
lambs and prevent them dying of hypothermia. Ewes need good nutrition during
lambing in order to produce milk and the lambs need soft young growth once they
feed by themselves.
The karoo where the
farmers stay during the winter months is the area at the edge of the Roggeveld
mountains and the Koue Bokkeveld mountains, and in the North West where it gradually
runs into the South Bokkeveld and the Hantam. The area is ideal for winter
lambing. Being much lower than the surrounding mountains, with a mild climate and
low rainfall the Karoo nutrition for sheep is at its best during winter months.
Whenever it rains in this area plants re-appear like magic. Within weeks
this inhospitable semi desert is transformed into a colourful carpet of flowers.
mentioned in his writings (1811) that it was common for the entire family with
their furniture to make the trek. This in itself was quite an undertaking in
those days. Preparations started with early baking, meat preserving and roasting of
coffee beans that had to be undertaken, and by the time the oxen were hitched to the
wagons, the family was already used to their temporary dwelling. (Occasionally
they built huts from matting during the stay).
Farmers came together
for the trek, as many as twenty wagons. It was more sociable and they could help
one another. Young farmers rode throughout the Roggeveld on horseback to announce
the date for the start of the trek which started at Vloksberg. There were ups and
downs for these migrating farmers. Often the wagons got stuck in the
mountains, harnesses broke and wagons could get swept away in swollen
rivers. Today they trek with cattle trucks. Should the farmers winter and summer
farms border one another, the sheep merely are driven down the mountain on foot.
is thought that it was in 1905 when the first missionary couple arrived. In 1864
the Dutch Reformed parish council decided a place of worship should be built for
the "Kleurlingen". In 1882 the "Mission church" had a warden
who received two shillings per month from the Dutch Reformed church. In 1892 a
little church for mission work was got under way and it was consecrated on 8th
of March 1913.The building cost was £800. This little church is still standing
on the corner of Van der Merwe- and Prinsloo Street.
new United Reformed Church was built at a cost of R 28,OOO and was consecrated
church was designed by Charles Freeman who also designed the Dutch
Reformed church of Graaff-Reinet and the Standard Bank in Cape Town.
During the Anglo-Boer War, the church was invaded for 8 months by the
British troops. Filled to capacity, it can seat 1200 people.
Rye of Roggeveld.
Roggeveld derived its name from the wild Rye which once was plentiful in
this area. In 1774 a Mr KP Thunberg, a Swedish travelling botanist,
mentioned the wild Rye "Secale Africanum Staph", which grew
amongst the rest of the shrubs. When conditions were favourable, it overtook the
bracken fields and took on the appearance of rye fields. Due to over grazing most
of this rye grass disappeared. A project is planned to restore this vegetation in controlled
2002 the Karoo-Hoogland Municipality decided to show the connection between
Sutherland and the South African Observatory with a visual display. A creative
project was started in Piet Retief, the main street (previously Voor street).
local building stone pedestals were chiseled and put along the street. On each
pedestal the size of the sun is represented by a black disc and the size of the
planet is represented by a small disc in the middle. This project is generally
known as the "sterremyl" (Mile of stars).