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Desert and Diamonds

Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz, a merchant from Bremen in Germany founded the town of Lüderitz, named after himself, in May 1883. The town lies next to an open, natural ocean bay, one of very few along the so-called Diamond Coast.


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The first European to land in the „Big Bay“ in 1487 however, was the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeu Diaz. Before continuing on his voyage following the tradition a stone cross with the coat of arms was erected at the so-called Diaz Point. Diaz named the bay Angra Pequena.

The German tobacco merchant arrived at the bay in 1883 and named it Lüderitz Bay. He bought the worthless land hoping to find mineral resources. This purchase made history as it was one of the country’s biggest mile frauds. Lüderitz’ mediator Heinrich Vogelsang bought a 40 mile long and 20 miles wide piece of land from the Nama leader Josef Fredericks on which a trading post was to be erected. After signing the contract Fredericks was informed that the miles mentioned in the contract were German geographical miles (7.5 km) and not the customary English miles (1.6 km) and thus the chief had sold most of his tribal land.

The above mentioned hope for mineral resources never materialised and Adolf Lüderitz soon experienced great economic difficulties resulting in the sale of the land to the German Colonial Society for Southwest Africa in 1885. In 1886 Adolf Lüderitz never returned from an expedition on the Orange River and has since been declared missing.

Lüderitz gained economic importance in 1908 when the black worker Zacharias Lewala found a diamond during his work at the narrow-gauge railway. As the chief railway foreman, August Stauch suspected diamonds in the area he instructed his workers to look out for shiny and unusual stones. After the find Stauch bought, together with his partner Soenke Nissen, claims for the area. The commencement of the diamond rush did not only result in an increasing number of adventurers travelling to Lüderitz, but it also turned Lüderitz into a very wealthy town. As the diamond findings shifted further south though the town lost more and more of its importance.

Due to the large amounts of plankton that the cold Benguela Current carries along the coast of Namibia is rich in fish and thus the town was able to establish a lucrative fishing industry after the diamond boom was over. The very clean water or the Atlantic also enabled lucrative oyster breeding.

Touristic highlights are some of the well maintained old houses from the German colonial times, build in Wilhelminian Art Deco. Also remarkable is the amount of appealing coastal beaches, especially the Big Bay and many sandy bays and lagoons. At the Halifax Island penguins and flamingos can be seen.

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