A collective REPHOTO project
It's one of the most famous landmarks in the world - the flat top of Table Mountain - so the re-creation of this picture should be easy...no?
Here's what we have to consider:
The first part of what is today's Cape Town harbour was the construction of the Alfred Basin which began in 1860, and was inaugurated in 1870. Once the Alfred Basin was in use, the Victoria Basin construction began, and was only completed during the Boer War (1899-1902).
We know from the Matkin's letters and Spry's notes that the breakwater for the Victoria basin was under construction at the time the Challenger was here, and that she was not allowed to dock in the Alfred Basin because the harbour master thought her too big, and likely to damage the harbour should a storm come up. His concern about storms was not out of place. The reason that the Alfred Basin had been built was that Lloyd's of London, the maritime insurers, had refused to insure ships in Table Bay prior to the construction of the Alfred Basin because of the number that were sunk in the bay during storms.
Given the angle from which the Challengers picture is taken, and that it had to be from the Alfred Basin, and not the Victoria, my mind immediately goes to the Clock Tower which still stands today. But look at the angle of the wall/dock in front of the sheds. In the HMS Challenge picture they appear to run towards the sheds. In the 1882 picture with the Clock Tower built, they appear to run at 90 degrees to the other picture.
So, the question is: with the building of the Victoria basin and the breakwater, did the wall/jetty in front of the sheds get moved, or am I looking in the wrong place?
Here's an additional picture that has me thinking that the wall did get moved (even though the picture is taken from the opposite direction)
If you look at pictures taken from the Clock Tower today, the profile of the mountain appears almost identical to the Challenge's picture (first picture in this post)
This picture is taken from the battery, very close to the Clock Tower. If the Clock Tower is the correct location, then those sheds are long gone. I know some of us have commented on that we've seen the sheds, but I think that this design was common at the harbour. Certainly the Ferryman's building is of the same style.
The good news is that the Clock Tower is open to visitors (I've actually never been in it!) so it's now time for field work. I'm also hopeful that there are some historical pictures in the Clock Tower that will help answer the questions.