26 Aug 2014 | By Sun International
The Legend of Oscar the Seal Lives on at Table Bay
In pride of place at the entrance to the Table Bay Hotel, a sun-gold statue of a seal proudly welcomes guests to the best address in Cape Town. At first glance, the impressive seal sculpture is a fitting mascot – Cape Fur Seals are an integral part of harbour life at the V&A Waterfront, and seal-watching is an amusing pastime.
But Oscar the Seal wasn't just another playful marine pup gamboling on the tyres along the quaysides. Beneath the statue erected in his honour, an inscription reads: "Oscar" the Cape Fur Seal. The original protector and guardian of the Table Bay.
Oscar’s story is the stuff of legends, and inextricably intertwined with the history of the hotel.
The story of the old fisherman and the seal
Many years ago, an old man named Oscar would fish the Atlantic waters from a rickety wooden pier every day. Each morning, an inquisitive Cape Fur Seal would swim near the shoreline and visit with him. The fisherman began throwing his bait to the seal, and later, even his catch for the day. Oscar often went home empty handed, but smiling.
Their unlikely friendship extended to the builders of the Table Bay Hotel. While the hotel was being erected, not far from the selfsame pier, the opening team would join the fisherman in his morning ritual. They came to know Oscar as kind-hearted and generous, and his friendship with the seal was a great source of entertainment and joy for those working on site.
Sadly, Oscar passed away just short of the hotel’s official opening. But his seal companion continued to visit the pier each morning, in search of his old friend.
The hotel team began calling the seal “Oscar”, in memory of the fisherman, whose kind spirit is said to have transferred to the seal. Oscar the Seal’s daily visits to the pier continued to cheer everyone at the hotel. Some days he’d was even joined by his pups.
Tragically, Oscar the Seal was killed in a boating accident, but his pups continue to visit the jetty at Table Bay to bask in the sun. They have become a popular photographic attraction for visitors from around the world.
In memory of Oscar the Seal, Sun International commissioned celebrated South African sculptor, Danie De Jager to create an artwork that would honour Oscar – both the Cape Fur Seal and the kindness of the fisherman who originally befriended him.
Danie De Jager has completed more than 120 larger-than-life bronze sculptures in his career, many of which occupy pride of place at other Sun International destinations. Oscar the Seal is a double life-size bronzed tribute, and is almost three metres tall. A fitting memorial to the fairytale-like friendship between fisherman and seal, Oscar stands proudly adjacent to Jetty 2 at the hotel entrance.
The Oscar Lager
In 2011, the Table Bay Hotel introduced a craft brew to its beer menu. Together with Cape Town based Jack Black Brewery, the Oscar Lager was created as a unique offering to hotel guests. Oscar the Seal was a dear friend of the hotel, and so it’s only fitting that a good beer enjoyed with great friends be named after the playful seal that made so many people smile.
Because of its prime location, stellar views and 5-star service, the Table Bay Hotel has had the privilege of hosting many honoured guests, from A-list celebrities to international dignitaries and royalty, including Sarah Ferguson, Barack and Michelle Obama, Sean Connery, Michael Jackson, South Africa's very own Charlize Theron, Chris Rock, and Tori Amos, to name a few.
The names of these famous guests are inscribed upon dozens of plaques, and displayed around the hotel’s symbolic monument to friendship: the statue of Oscar the Seal.