As well as the Rock’s community of apes you may see several species of birds from up here as Gibraltar is situated on a major migration route between Europe and Africa.
One of the species that nests on the Rock is the peregrine falcon. If you visit Gibraltar between March and May or between August and September, you may be lucky enough to witness the passage of flocks of birds of prey whose migratory routes take them over the Rock, especially during westerly winds.
Rock + Levanter
Let’s leave aside Gibraltar’s fascinating history for a few minutes and focus on its geology and unusual flora and fauna.
MN: The Rock is made of limestone from the Jurassic era, formed 300 million years ago. It built up beneath the ocean with the accumulation of sediments from a warm and shallow sea, and shifted to its present location during the major tectonic movements that formed the continents. We can see this from the marine fossils that have been found in The Rock’s cliffs. The Rock was then shaped by sea erosion and the effects of climate.
A characteristic of Gibraltar’s weather is the so-called ‘Levanter Cloud’. Moisture-laden Mediterranean air is pushed by the wind against the Rock. The water condenses, forming a cloud. This can happen extraordinarily quickly, especially in the summer months, and has a very beneficial effect on the Rock’s plant life. You may have seen this cloud yourself during your visit today.
A once important centre for fishing was Catalan Bay. It’s the small village at the foot of this cliff, on a tiny inlet by the sea.
Catalan Bay dates back to the 18th century. Its original inhabitants were seafarers from Genoa in Italy. The Catalans, who gave the bay its name, later joined the Genoese. Although no longer a fishing community, it is very popular with local bathers.
The constant exploration of the Rocks’ caves led, in 1848, to an important discovery: the skull of a Neanderthal man.
The discovery did not arouse much interest at first, but when 8 years later other similar remains were found in northern Europe, in the Neander Valley in Germany, the importance of the find as evidence of a culture 140,000 years old became clear. The original skull is now housed in the British Museum in London although you can see a plaster cast of it in the Gibraltar Museum.
If you look down at the side of The Rock below you, you will see that this side is very steep and relatively smooth.
Gibraltar has no significant natural water deposits; and, in the early 20th century, when the population grew dramatically, the need for more drinking water became especially acute. So the British designed an ingenious way of increasing the supply of drinking water. Almost the entire Rock face below you was covered for many years with corrugated iron sheets, mounted on timber frames. The water flowed into the channel that you can still see half-way up the slope. Rainwater was collected and channelled into 13 large reservoirs inside the Rock capable of storing 16 million gallons of water. The whole system worked simply by gravity, without any need to pump the water. This system is based on a unique design and was so efficient that it was still in use until just a few years ago.