This well-known mountain in western South Africa is actually among the oldest on the planet and it all began with the formation of sandstone in the ocean.
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock that usually forms underwater when grains of sand settle and are then buried under many more tons of sand. The immense weight causes the deepest grains to cement together. In the case of Table Mountain this sandstone began to form a shale-based continental shelf.
Hot magma welling up from the centre of the Earth 600 million years ago infiltrated the shale and then cooled to create a hard foundation of Precambrian granite and slate. Over the following centuries, more and more sediment settled on top of this igneous foundation, creating a new, softer sandstone topper.
This caused the planet’s crust to bunch up and form fold mountains.
However, the granite foundations of Table Mountain stood firm and instead deflected energy downwards, causing the uplift of rock and the emergence of Table Mountain above the sea.