We arrived in Luderitz very early in the morning; under overcast skies and a light rain. Luderitz averages about 2 days of rain per year so we were continuing to drag our rain cloud behind the ship as we had done often on this journey. Because of low water the Captain was unable to dock so at 6:30 am they lowered the tenders, followed by announcements over the PA that tenders to shore were available as of 7. So….sleep was over.
Luderitz is a small town with a nice harbour tucked between the Atlantic ocean and the Namib Desert. The community was established as a trading post and fishing port by the Germans in 1883. The area had a “white gold” rush for a few years as Europeans poured into the area to harvest the guano – bird droppings – and send it back to Europe. They so decimated the habitat that many of the birds fled the area or were hunted to extinction.
The area settled into semi-obscurity until Jan Kolman, a transport driver abandoned his ox-team about 8 km from Luderitz during a sand storm . He decided to settle down and named the place Kolmanskop. Kolman was a hobby geologist and asked the people in the surrounding area to bring him any interesting rocks they found. In 1908 a man named Zacharias Lewala brought him a white stone he had picked up off the ground and south African diamond mining began. At one time Kolmanskop was a bustling community with large Germanic-style buildings. It had a theatre, a casino, a hospital with the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere, a school, ice factory, power station and ballroom with an attached al a carte restaurant. This is the bowling alley in the hotel basement.
We were told that the diamonds could be picked up off the ground by the handful. Over time the easy-to-get-to diamonds were all found and the small mines were bought up one man. Those who did not wish to sell their mines agreed to combine them all with the fellow and became shareholders in NamDeb (Namibia De Beers). By 1954 it was no longer viable to work the mines and Kolmanskop became a ghost town. Today all the land from the along the coast from Luderitz Harbour and 150 miles inland is owned by NamDeb and the company runs Kolmanskop as a tourist attraction. Without the company clearing the roads for access the entire town would soon be buried by the desert. With new equipment and technology diamond mining is once again ongoing in the area so we were warned to NOT cross the fenceline around the old town. Video surveillance is diligent and you would be immediately questioned and searched.
During our time at Kolmanskop the sun came out and it turned into a lovely day. When we returned from our tour we wandered around the town of Luderitz before taking a tender back to the ship. At four o’clock the Captain set sail for our last port in Africa, Walvis Bay, where we went dune bashing in the Namib Desert.