Mesas are considered ones of the oldest geological formations on Earth and geologists date some of them back over two billion years. There are, usually, a large number of unique animals on the tops of mesas, also they serve as habitats for thousands of species of unique plants that could not be found anywhere in the world. From a layman’s point of view, there is nothing unique about this kind of mountains apart from flat top surfaces and perfect photogenicity; however, many scientists deem that they represent an astounding phenomenon, therefore a student might easily find a great deal of material for thesis topics related to the nature and structural peculiarities of mesas.
Anyway, in order to answer the main question – what is a mesa ? – we need to overlook several the most characteristic of them. It is not hard to guess that a predominant majority of the underwritten geological phenomena are, at the same time, the most popular touristic locations on Earth, namely:
People often say that Table Mountain is named so because of its appearance that is reminiscent of a table – but, simultaneously, many other claims that it looks like a chest, or a piano, or a recumbent wall or whatever you want if it is not a mountain. Its sides appear smooth, yet large ledges, bumps and depressions become visible as soon as you look at the mountain through a telescope. Table Mountain is situated to the south-west of Cape Town, on the southern shore of Table Bay, which is one of the business cards of the city. To the east of Table Mountain tourists can find Devil's Peak with a height of 975 meters, and to the west two lower mountains await them: Lion's Head and Signal Hill, 640 and 335 m, respectively, and famous Twelve Apostles Peak as a dessert. We believe this place can provide lots of good topics for writing a compare and contrast essay. Table Mountain represents the northern end of the mountain range, which stretches between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. The mountain itself is quite old as it was formed about 600 million years ago and nowadays is known to us as the residue of a mountain range that existed hundreds of millions of years ago. Built of sandstone and quartzite, lying on ancient granite and schist Table Mountain is a real decoration for the city and it looks truly majestically, like a table covered with a white tablecloth of clouds. And when the tablecloth is not seen and clouds do not shroud the summit, you can distinguish the flat top of the mountain having a width of 3.2 kilometers. Its steep slopes rise up for more than a kilometer (the figures range from 1067 to 1087 meters). Ask yourself again: what is a mesa and is not this phenomenon truly marvelous?
Table Mountain received its name from Europeans. Mostly because of its outstanding apparent proximity to the sea the local community have long called the mountain Hoerikwaggo,"sea mountain". Thus, indeed, coming to the city from the sea you first see the mountain and only then fling the eyes over the city itself. Table Mountain has been serving as a landmark to mariners for a long time. The ledge of sandstone protruding from the Atlantic and breaking the line of the horizon is world-widely known as Twelve Apostles Peak. Thus, the names of the latter has often figured in many religious studies.When viewed from the Cape Town harbor the mountain appears as a blue-green monolith trembling slightly in the heat and veiled in haze. It resembles a large table covered with a tablecloth, which never descends to the lower slopes. It seems almost like you can feel the breeze fanning the top and fly with the clouds that are carried by the north southeasterly winds. And it is absolutely clear that the tablecloth of clouds should create a special and unpredictable climate: the temperature here in winter can drop below 0 ° C, and yearly rainfall is 3 times higher than that of Cape Town (Cape Town features 650 mm rainfall per year, whereas on Table Mountain it can be 1830 mm per year). Such a rather large amount of precipitation leads to leaching of rocks and forming of gullies on the hillside; the deepest of these gullies simultaneously offers the traveler the shortest route to the top of Table Mountain. Finally, from the said top you can see a miracle of some sort: there are two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian that meet at the tip of South Africa (the Cape of Good Hope). You do not want to be there for long, though: the difference in temperatures of warm and cold currents causes frequent severe storms.
Interesting enough, there is a constellation in star catalogs named after Table Mountain; moreover, all mountains of this type around the world have a name thanks to Table Mountain in Cape Town (German: Tafelberg, Spanish: Mesa, Russian: Столовая гора, that is, a mountain with a truncated, flat top). As a rule, mesas are composed of sedimentary rocks. The slopes of these mountains are usually steep, almost vertical. In the sectional view, this kind of geological formations has an oblong shape, i.e. the plateau on the top of the mountain is extended in one direction. Erosion and weathering comprise the two essential processes of denudation that case the truncated form of mesas’ tops. Those mountains, which flat tops do not consist of sedimentary rocks but rather are covered with a crust of hardened volcanic lava, constitute another kind of mesas. As it has been mentioned, the Cape Town’s mesa was discovered by Europeans in 1488 when Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias had tried to find a route to India. There are lots of legends about how this brave sailor called the mountain initially. Twenty-two years later Portuguese sailors were killed by the local tribe of Hottentots, and ships stopped coming into the bay except for extremely rare occasions. The first European who climbed Table Mountain in 1503 was Portuguese navigator Antonio de Saldanha. A Dutch settlement in Table Bay was founded in 1652, which had a goal to victual passing ships of the East India Company. Then the first settlers built a fortress, which today can be seen in Cape Town. In 1929, a cable car was built on the mountain, and in 1998 the old cabins were replaced by more comfortable ones, which seat 65 people altogether. In the same year, the mountain became part of the national park called Table Mountain Park; this park was also created with an eye to protecting the local fauna and flora against tourists. On the whole, the historical background here represents a great load of topics for a case study research.
There are about 2285 species of plants growing on Table Mountain, many of which are endemic, i.e. they cannot be found anywhere except for this corner of the world. For instance, you can find extremely rare orchids and unique flowers here. An evergreen shrub called fynbos grows on the steep slopes - and sometimes it covers quite large areas. This shrub is a bit cramped by pines imported here. Fynbos is fire-hazardous as this is the way it refreshes itself in natural conditions. But it was forest fires and the thoughtlessness of people that have led to the disappearance of 15 species of endemic plants as well as put other 140 species on the brink of distinction. From a platform at the top of the mountain, you can see the ocean and almost the entire peninsula overgrown with trees and shrubs. Sometimes you can see southern whales, which swim in coastal waters. Nowadays Table Mountain is included in the UN list of World Heritage, and it became a symbol of Cape Town and is embodied in its flag. It is recommendable for students to begin exploring this heritage from a vast amount of available books – of course, only if they know clearly a case study definition. You should climb the mountain in good clear weather when the sky is not clothed in clouds. In bad weather, to be honest, such a campaign makes no sense. The best recommended time for hiking starts from 1 May and finishes near 15 September. All-in-all, Table Mountain is one of the most beautiful viewing platforms you can find around the world. There is a well-developed mini-infrastructure on the top: one can use one of the mounted telescopes in order to overlook the outskirts, also tourists may like to eat in a restaurant, or buy presents in a gift shop. Try to overlook not only the city but the whole peninsula during the day, and then stay longer to enjoy views of the stunning sunset. Table Mountain still is a natural area that has preserved wonders. It is not for nothing that one of the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere was named after the mountain. Here, at the top of Table Mountain, an attentive tourist can feel the presence of the mystery of ancient centuries and the wonderful unity with nature; exactly for such feelings, people are ready to travel around the world and remain in this splendid place for a long time.