Tourism, Travel

Kolmanskop Ghost Town, A Former Mining Town with a Rich History

The last place we visited in Luderitz, before leaving, was a ghost town about 10 miles out of town called Kolmanskop, which means Coleman’s Stop.   Apparently a guy named Coleman had a transportation business and during a large sandstorm, had to abandon his oxwagon there and it became named after this event.   It eventually became the location of  small mining town known for the rich diamond fields that surrounded it.   It reminded me of the Gold Rush towns that popped up in the US when gold was discovered.   Hundreds of people lived in this town and it was completely self contained.  It had water shipped in, both fresh water and seawater.  It had an ice factory where ice was made and shipped to all the residents on a daily basis on a small tram.   It had a bakery, general store, an electric plant, a dance and mess hall, a hospital, even a bowling alley.  It had everything you needed to live there in that desert wasteland.   Except women of course.  Women were very hard to come by.  We were told stories of workers paying people to bring women in at night so they couldn’t tell how desperate looking it was there, and as soon as the women got a look at the place during the day, they left.

The town itself looked like a small German town in the desert.   And the whole reason for the town was to bring in workers to look for diamonds.  We saw pictures of men crawling on their bellies for 12 hour shifts, picking up diamonds off the desert floor.   Of course, there were lots of issues with men putting diamonds in their mouths and other places.  In fact, there was a place dedicated for men who were suspected of doing this. They’d take you there and give you a laxitive and wait until the diamonds passed.  Also a dentist office for those who tried to hide them in their teeth.   There was even an xray machine there, the first in the southern continent, to try and cut down on the amount of smuggling that was going on.

The pics below show some of the history of the diamonds in Namibia and in this location.  The Diamond Rush, they called it.  People scambling to make their fortune.  Claims were sold initially, until the bigger companies bought them all up.   And the diamond smuggling business was insane.  There are 4 pics below of different methods people used to try and smuggle diamonds out of the town.   It was quite fascinating and my mind was racing with the possibilities.   There are very strict fines and jailtime, however, so even though it sounds exciting, the consequences are quite dire.

We walked around the town and took pictures of all the remaining buildings.  Some of them, the only thing holding them up, was the sand in the middle of them.    We were told that celebrities came to entertain and they usually stayed with the Quartermaster.  Also, the owner of the town/mine had the large house at the end of the row, and it is still the most intact building.

Here are a couple of tools used to sift through the sand and rock to find the diamonds.

It always amazes me the plants that will survive in such a barren location.

I honestly didn’t expect too much from this town, but was proven wrong by the end of the tour.   It is well worth it to visit and learn about the rich history of diamond mining in Namibia at the first part of the last century.   I still look for diamonds everywhere I walk.   Here’s one last view of the town as we left on the highway.    If you want to learn more, click here.   Thanks for following along on the journey.  Don’t forget to follow on email by subscribing, or you can follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, Instagram.

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