Daily Archives: September 13, 2010

8 Things You Might Not Have Known About South Africa

Posted by on September 13, 2010

I’m off to South Africa today so I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I’ve picked up in my research:

  1. The world’s first heart transplant was performed in Cape Town at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard. In addition to having performed the first heart transplant, he also performed the first heart/lung transplant. The donor of the first heart transplant was a white girl who also had her kidneys donated to a black recipient, which was extremely controversial at the time.
  2. South Africa is by far the largest producer to strategic minerals. It produces 90% of the platinum, 80% of the manganese, 73% of the chrome, 45% of the vanadium, and 41% of the gold.
  3. The two biggest man made holes in the world were excavated in South Africa. The Big Hole in Kimberly and the Jagersfontein Mine are both gigantic, open pit diamond mines. Both mines were designed to extract diamonds from underground Kimberlite Pipes which come from the mantle of the Earth.
  4. South Africa is home to the world’s largest bird (ostrich), largest mammal (bull elephant), smallest mammal (dwarf shrew), largest reptile (leatherback sea turtle: 1500 pounds), largest earthworm (African Giant Earthworm), fastest animal (cheetah), tallest animal (giraffe), and the largest fish (whale shark).
  5. The second highest waterfall in the world is in South Africa: Tugela Falls. It checks in at 948m, 31m less than Angel Falls in Venezuela.
  6. The best example of a living fossil was found in South Africa in 1938: the Coelacanth. The fish was thought to be extinct since the Devonian period and is considered the linked between fish and tetropods.
  7. In 1879, the largest defeat of an army with gunpowder to an army without guns occurred in South Africa. 1,400 British troops were defeated by 30,000 Zulu warriors armed primarily with spears and shields. Over 1,000 British were killed (71%) vs 3,000 Zulus (10%).
  8. South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

What other interesting things about South Africa do you know? Has anyone else traveled there or planning a trip soon?