Cape Town - Cape Town seemed trapped in a time warp on Monday as the noon gun fired repeatedly through the early afternoon – and nobody could explain why.
At the Simon’s Town Naval Base, public relations officers struggled to contact the officers operating the cannon.
Twitter erupted with speculation on the noon-gun blasts, with the topic trending in the city area.
The South African Navy eventually explained that a naval unit was practising a 21-gun salute which will welcome HMS Iron Duke to Cape Town on Wednesday.
The daily noon blasts are usually anticipated by workers in the City Bowl looking forward to their lunch break.
But on Monday the quadruple volley of cannon shot sent echoes of bewilderment through social networks.
“Does anyone know if the noon-gun operator developed Alzheimer’s or if there is a war going on in Cape Town?” tweeted Roy Barford.
“Perhaps we are being invaded by Zimbabwe… ” surmised Bobby Brown.
Senzo Dhlomo laughed at how the noon gun had Capetonians “resetting their watches”, while Brent Smith took advantage: “Have taken five lunch breaks today. Boss is pissed, but the #NoonGun told me to.”
The cannon on Signal Hill reserves 21-gun salutes for special occasions, and the arrival of HMS Iron Duke is just that.
According to the British Royal Navy’s website, the frigate left England on Friday, June 20, after a year in the docks.
With refits and trials done, along with months of “training and working up for operations”, maintenance on the ship was completed at Portsmouth Dockyard.
The upgrades have made HMS Iron Duke the first Royal Navy warship to be fitted with the Artisan 3D radar system, which is said to be five times better than its predecessor.
On board the frigate are 180 crew members including engineers, logisticians, medics and warfare specialists drawn from the UK and Commonwealth nations.
“At times she will work with partner nations to develop their armed forces training to defend their own waters,” the website says. “She may be called upon to lend assistance for humanitarian disasters or tackle piracy on the high seas.”