Namibia’s most famous ghost town, Kolmanskop, is situated in the
Sperrgebiet about 10 km inland from Lüderitz. It was named after a
transport driver named Johnny Coleman, who lived in the tiny settlement of
Aus at the turn of the century. During a fierce sandstorm he was forced to
abandon his ox wagon on the small incline from where Kolmanskop can be
seen. It stood there for a while, giving rise to the name Colemanshuegel,
which eventually became Kolmanskop.
In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a sparkling stone
amongst the sand he was shovelling away from the railway line near
Kolmanskop. August Stauch, his supervisor, was convinced he had found a
diamond. When this was confirmed, the news spread like wildfire, sparking
a frantic diamond rush and causing fortune hunters to converge in droves
on Kolmanskop. It soon became a bustling little centre with a butchery,
bakery, furniture factory, soda water and lemonade plant, four-skittle
alley, a public playground and even a swimming pool.
The town’s development reached its pinnacle in the twenties, with
approximately 300 German adults, 40 of their children and 800 Owambo
contract workers living there. In spite of, or probably because of, the
isolation and bleakness of the surrounding desert, Kolmanskop developed
into a lively little haven of German culture, offering entertainment and
recreation to suit the requirements of the affluent colonialists for whom
large, elegant houses were built. The well-equipped hospital boasted
Southern Africa’s first X-ray machine.
However, when richer diamond deposits were discovered further south,
operations were moved to Oranjemund. Today the ghost town’s crumbling
ruins bear little resemblance to its former glory. The stately homes,
their grandeur now scoured and demolished by the wind, are gradually
becoming enveloped by encroaching sand. In 1980 the mining company CDM
(now Namdeb) restored a number of the buildings and established a museum
for tourist viewing.
As Kolmanskop Ghost Town is located within the restricted
diamond area (the Sperrgebiet) a permit is necessary to visit. These
permits are available from Lüderitzbucht Tours & Safaris located in
Bismarck Street, Tel: (063) 202719.
Guided tours are conducted from Monday to Saturday at 09h30 and 10h45. On
Sundays there is only one tour at 10h00. Entrance into Kolmanskop outside
of these hours is prohibited.
For photographers, photo permits (from sunrise to sunset) can be obtained
during office hours from Tel: (063) 203073
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