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Where DO the Two Oceans Meet?

This morning, while sitting on a bench at Fish Hoek beach before work with some of my family members (yes it was VERY cold, and early, and yes some of us did swim. Not me. I brought the coffee and Ouma’s rusks…) we got in to a debate about whether Fish Hoek (with its relatively warm waters) is on the Indian or the Atlantic Ocean coast. Having lived right here for many years you’d think we’d all have come up with the same answer – but we didn’t.

Fish Hoek Beach - Indian or Atlantic Ocean?

(Image: Joy-Anne Goodenough. Creative Commons License)

Wasn’t Cape Point the place where the two oceans ‘meet’? Surely it must be as the waters from Cape Point to Saldanha are so very cold, while from about Simon’s Town all the way to Gordon’s Bay and beyond we enjoy warmer waves? And the Two Oceans Marathon is run down here, nowhere near Agulhas. And - AND - the marine plant and animal life also differs vastly either side of Cape Point. The arguments seemed – well, watertight.

One thing we did all agree on was that Cape Agulhas is the southern most tip of Africa. But then I recalled that when we visited Agulhas last year there were signs on either side of the ‘tip of Africa’ plaque indicating the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in either direction.(see pic)

Cape Agulhas - The Real Deal?

(Image: Joy-Anne Goodenough. Creative Commons License)

The debate resulted in yours truly (as a Travel Blog editor) being dispatched to research and blog my findings – really I should have known the answer but if we locals were unsure there are no doubt many others who also are confused by the matter of

Where the Two Oceans REALLY Meet…

(aka Is Fish Hoek on the Indian or Atlantic Ocean?)

Cape Point - Pretender to the 2 Oceans Crown

(Image: Andre van Rooyen. All rights reserved)

According to the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO), the western boundary of the Indian Ocean is defined as being:

From the coast of the Antarctic continent northwards, along the meridian of 20º E to Cape Agulhas (34º 50’S – 20º 00’E), the southern extremity of the Republic of South Africa, in Africa (the common limit with the South Atlantic Ocean).

The South African Navy and the Department of Oceanography at the University of Cape Town both are reported as accepting the above.

Currents play an important role in the matter. To the east we have the Indian Ocean warmed by the Mozambique or Agulhas Current from the tropics, while to the west the Atlantic is cooled by the icy Benguela Current from the Antarctic.

It is the currents and associated water temperatures, together with the winds and topography, that explain the varying climates and vegetation both on land and under the sea (compare the semi-desert of the West Coast to the subtropical savanna on the east).

To clear up our early morning beach discussion further, it is the shallowness of the False Bay that contributes to the warmer waters of Fish Hoek and other beaches in the vicinity.

It is important to note however that there is no definitive place in the waters off the Cape Coast which irrevocably divides the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

As Wikipedia tells it:

Cape Point is often mistakenly claimed to be the place where the cold Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm Agulhas Current of the Indian ocean collide. In fact, the meeting point fluctuates along the southern and southwestern Cape coast, usually occurring between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point.The two intermingling currents help to create the micro-climate of Cape Town and its environs. Contrary to popular mythology, the meeting point of the currents produces no obvious visual effect; there is no "line in the ocean" where the sea changes colour or looks different in some way.

So there you have it - for those of you who scrolled down to the bottom for the answer to the question that started it all, Fish Hoek beach is on the Atlantic Ocean. With a bit of Indian in the mix.