MS Expedition West Africa Day 3: Luderitz and Kolmanskop, Namibia

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Pic: Abandoned houses in the desert at Kolmanskop

Day 3: Luderitz and Kolmanskop, Namibia

The first thing that struck me when arriving in this desolate and remote

little port town was the similarity of the Kaiser-era German architecture

against a stark desert landscape with that of my home state of South

Australia. The quaint and sleepy towns of the Eyre Peninsula and Riverina

bear an uncanny resemblance to Luderitz here amid the parched, windswept and

sandy terrain of Namibia. Swan Reach, Mannum or Ceduna would not be

out-of-place in this equally inhospitable environment except that there is

even less rain and foliage here on the so-called Skeleton Coast of Africa.

Wandering the streets of this former German trading post built mainly during

the last two decades of the 19th century and into the first of the 20th

century, one is reminded of the determined colonial zeal of the European

powers at this time and their ruthless ambition to dominate and exploit at

the expense of the indigenous peoples.

Down Bismarck St in the centre of Luderitz are taverns, shops and houses

built by the wealthy German traders. The most substantial and impressive

structures were constructed after the city was raised to municipal status

following the brutal conclusion of the so-called Hottentot Revolt around

1907. It’s fascinating to chat with the few remaining European descendents

in their old German tongue, still used along with English and Afrikaans in

daily life.

The big news from here was the accidental finding of diamonds in 1908.

Mining for these gems continued well into the 20th century, even after the

German Protectorate was lost after WWI.

The mining town of Kolmanskop was built at this time, just a few clicks out

of Luderitz and these now abandoned buildings serve as a stark reminder to

the ambition and hardships these early folk were prepared to endure for the

lure of sparkling gems. It’s a surreal sight to behold these ornate and

impressive houses being slowly consumed by the voracious dunes of the Namib


But the desert moves on and so do we, toward Walvis Bay tomorrow.

For further info including deatiled history, see:

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