versão On-line ISSN 2309-8392
Saldanha Bay is one of the best natural harbours in the world and was known as such by the French even before the Dutch set foot at the Cape in 1652. However, when the British first occupied the Cape almost one and a half centuries after the Dutch arrival, no development had yet taken place at Saldanha Bay. The British saw great potential in Saldanha Bay as a naval base, but never exploited it. The principal reason for this lack of development was the absence of fresh water. Even Saldanha Bay's early Khoikhoi inhabitants had to seek greener pastures during the dry season. The prospect of diverting water from the nearby Berg River to Saldanha Bay had often been contemplated even from the time of the Dutch settlement, but never came to fruition until the mid-twentieth century. The fact that war is a powerful agent of rapid and profound change was clearly illustrated when Saldanha Bay acquired access to a sustainable supply of fresh water during the Second World War. This article traces Saldanha Bay's "waterless" history to 1943 and explores the Bay's acquisition of strategic importance during the Second World War, resulting in the South African Engineer Corps being tasked to tap into the Berg River to quench Saldanha's thirst. The article then concludes with a brief overview of the immediate and longer-term impact this wartime lifeline had on Saldanha Bay and its inhabitants.
Palavras-chave : Berg River; harbour; naval base; Saldanha Bay; Second World War; South African Engineer Corps; water.