It’s one thing to “happen upon” an abandoned colonial town, but it’s another thing entirely when it’s an abandoned German-style mining village — in the Namib Desert.
Urban adventurers and explorers who are making their way to Kolmanskop, an old diamond mining town that was deserted in 1954 and is now filled with dune sand and, supposedly, haunted spirits. Kolmanskop’s uniquely Jugendstil German architecture makes its hospital, casino and theatre stand out and an extremely rare global destination.
Situated only 15 km east of the harbour town of Lüderitz, Kolmanskop used to be a tiny colonial railway station in 1908, when the railway between Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz was built. As far as legend has it the station derived its name from a Nama man named Coleman, who got stuck at the site with his ox waggon and consequently died of thirst and dehydration. Back then, travelling from Windhoek to Lüderitz via Oxcart was a massive undertaking – taking approximately 14 to 29 days.
In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone and took it to the chief railway foreman August Stauch. Herr Stauch had been stationed at the station “Grasplatz” with the instruction to keep the railway line clear of the all surrounding masses of Namib dune sand. He was a self-taught mineralogist and had advised his workers to collect any unique stones they might come across and show them to him for further analysis. Herr Stauch instantly assumed that the Rock Sample of Lewala to be a diamond, which was later confirmed, after the stone had been examined and thoroughly analysed by his friend and future partner Söhnke Nissen, an educated mining engineer. Stauch and Nissen did not shout their find from the rooftops, but instead quit their jobs and secured claims of 75 km² at Kolmanskop. They successfully continued their search for diamonds further down the line.
Nevertheless, the occurrence of Namibia diamonds did not stay hidden for long and soon a real diamond fever developed after the News spread across Europe. Big crowds, hordes and mining enthusiasts of diamond seekers and adventurers moved to Namibia and settled throughout Kolmanskop. As a result, within two years at a rapid speed, an unparalleled town developed. Following, a few years which started as a small Rail station, back then the new colonial town Kolmanskop became the richest town in Africa and one of the richest towns known to man. The thereby developed infrastructure was unmatched at the time; as from 1911 the town had electric power, luxurious stone houses, a casino, a hospital, a school, an ice factory to produce ice for fridges, a sport-hall and bowling alley, a theater, a ballroom, a salt-water swimming pool and much more although less than 400 people lived here. Apparently, the very first bathtubs were first introduced in Namibia, all exported from Hamburg via the Woermann Linie.
Noteworthy is that the hospital had the first x-ray medical apparatus in southern Africa installed. Rumour has it that this equipment also probably served to control workers, who might have swallowed diamonds (?)*.
In 1908 no more claims were granted and the southern coastal strip was declared highly Restricted Diamond area. Diamond mining at Kolmanskop was industrialized and the diamond-yielding gravel was treated, washed and inspected in large factories. Predictions from 10 tons of sand only one to two carats of diamonds have been mined.
With this method, 1 ton of diamonds was mined until the first World War. With the outbreak of the war in 1914 the production was nearly zero and with the loss of the German colony the German Era of diamond mining came to an end and was taken over by South Africa where Walvisbaai became the first Mandatsgebiet
In 1928 profitable prospecting sites were discovered south of Lüderitz all the way up to Oranjemund and as the deposits around Kolmanskop were nearing depletion the mining activities were discontinued resulting that until 1938 all machinery was taken south. The town was left to its own reckoning and the Namib desert claimed its lost territory back. The last inhabitant left Kolmanskop between 1956 and 1960.
- German Kolmanskop Homepage
- English Kolmanskop Homepage
- Kolmanskuppe Wikipedia
- Haunted Ghost Town Tours – Kolmanskop
Video Kolmanskop, Haunted, Abandoned German Village Namibia (Narrated in German):
Video Kolmanskop, Haunted, Abandoned German Village Namibia (no Narration – Notice: Editor added a silly scare-prank!):