Namibia Part III – Kolmanskop

Namibia – Kolmanskop


On Day 32 we went in search of the ghosts of Kolmanskop, Namibia’s most famous ghost town. Here is a bit of history which I am way too lazy to try to put in my own words. It may be from Wikipedia, I copied it a while ago without noting the source:

“Kolmanskop (Afrikaans for Coleman’s hill, German: Kolmannskuppe) is a ghost town in the Namib Desert in southern Namibia, a few kilometers inland from the port town of Lüderitz. It was named after a transport driver named Johnny Coleman who, during a sand storm, abandoned his ox wagon on a small incline opposite the settlement. Once a small but very rich mining village, it is now a popular tourist destination run by the joint firm NamDeb (Namibia-De Beers).

In 1908 the worker Zacharias Lewala found a diamond while working in this area and showed it to his supervisor, the German railway inspector August Stauch. Realizing the area was rich in diamonds, German miners began settlement, and soon after the German government declared a large area as a “Sperrgebiet”, starting to exploit the diamond field.

Driven by the enormous wealth of the first diamond miners, the residents built the village in the architectural style of a German town, with amenities and institutions including a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle-alley, theatre and sport-hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere, as well as the first tram in Africa. It had a railway link to Lüderitz.

The town declined after World War I when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954. The geological forces of the desert mean that tourists now walk through houses knee-deep in sand. Kolmanskop is popular with photographers for its settings of the desert sands’ reclaiming this once-thriving town. Due to its location within the restricted area (Sperrgebiet) of the Namib Desert, tourists need a permit to enter the town.”

What a place. Everything seems unreal, almost like a show that’s put up for our entertainment. I never got the feeling that real people lived there, until we went to the hospital, or “Krankenhaus”. I could imagine sick miners lying in their beds, missing their loved ones back home in Germany. It was a town of bachelors and men without their families. The hospital had more than 200 beds, with the first x-ray machine in the Southern Hemisphere. The machine was also used to scan the miners to prevent diamond theft. I will let the photos tell the story (please forgive the shadows in the wrong places, we went too late in the day so the lighting wasn’t perfect. Plus I am just a wanna-be-amateur photographer…).

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