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Kolmanskop

Ghost town in the Namib Desert

After becoming one of the richest towns in Africa during a diamond boom in 1910, Kolmanskop was left by all inhabtants in the following decades. Kolmanskop became a ghost town in the desert.

Specifications

Type
Ghost town
Sleep
In Lüderitz
Campsites
In Lüderitz
Location
Lüderitz area
Activities
Guided tours

History of Kolmanskop

Situated only 15 km east of the harbour town of Lüderitz, Kolmanskop used to be a small railway station in 1908, when the railway between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop was built. As far as legend has it the station derived its name from a Nama man named Coleman, who got stuck at the site with his ox waggon and consequently died of thirst.

In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone and took it to the chief railway foreman August Stauch. Stauch had been stationed at the station Grasplatz with the instruction to keep the railway line clear of sand. He was a hobby mineralogist and had ad-vised his workers to bring any unique stone they might find to him.  He immediately assumed the find of Lewala to be a diamond, which was later confirmed, after the stone had been ex-amined by his friend and future partner Söhnke Nissen, a mining engineer. Stauch and Nissen did not shout their find form the rooftops, but instead quit their jobs and secured claims of 75 km² at Kolmanskop. They successfully continued their search for diamonds.

Nevertheless the occurrence of diamonds did not stay a secret for long and soon a real dia-mond fever developed, as hordes of diamond seekers and adventurers settled in the area. Within two years at a rapid speed an unparalleled town development took place; within a few years Kolmanskop became the richest town of Africa and one of the richest towns worldwide. The thereby developed infrastructure was unmatched at the time; as from 1911 the town had electric power, luxurious stone houses, a casino, a school, a hospital, an ice factory to produce ice for fridges, a theatre, a ballroom, a sport-hall, a bowling alley, a salt-water swimming pool and much more although less than 400 people lived here.

Noteworthy is that the hospital had the first x-ray apparatus in southern Africa installed. It probably also served to control workers, who might have swallowed diamonds.

In 1908 no more claims were granted and the southern coastal strip was declared Restricted Diamond area. Diamond mining was industrialised and the diamond-yielding gravel was sif-ted and washed in huge factories. From 10 tons of sand only one to two carats of diamonds can be mined.

With this method 1 ton of diamonds was mined until World War I. With the outbreak of the war in 1914 the production was nearly zero and with the loss of the German colony the Ger-man Era of diamond mining came to an end and was taken over by South Africa.

In 1928 profitable prospecting sites were discovered south of Lüderitz all the way to Oranje-mund and as the deposits around Kolmanskop were nearing depletion the mining activities were discontinued and until 1938 all machinery was taken south.   The town was left to its own devices and the desert claimed its lost territory back. The last inhabitant left Kolmanskop between 1956 and 1960.

Tourism highlight Kolmanskop

In 1980 whilst Lüderitz underwent an economic boom the touristic potential of the ghost town was rediscovered and some houses were dug out of the sands again and were restored, which are open for visitors.

Today intersting and very informative guided tours in English, German and Afrikaans are offered. The tours start 09:30 and 11:00 from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays and public holidays there is only one tour which starts at 10:00.

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