Diamonds so plentiful they glittered in the moonlight. All one had to do was venture outside during a full moon and, on hands and knees, pluck the glittering gems from their sandy resting place. This was Kolmanskop, Namibia during the early days of the mine. But, those days are long gone and the elements have begun to retake the land as the wind has half-buried buildings in the Namib desert sand.
Kolmanskop is the most famous ghost town in Namibia. It is named after Johnny Coleman, a German transport driver, who lived in the settlement of Aus. Coleman had been forced to abandon his ox and wagon on a sandy incline near Kolmanskop during a particularly devastating sandstorm. For a while, the area was called Colemanshüegel (“Colemans Hügel” translates to Coleman’s Hill). Eventually, the name changed to Kolmanskop (which translates to Coleman’s Head).
This little hamlet, located about 10 kilometers from Lüderitz, wasn’t always so desolate. In 1908 the location became a mining boom-town when railway worker Zacharias Lewala discovered what he thought was a diamond as he shoveled sand from the nearby railroad tracks. The sparkling rock was shown to August Stauch, Lewala’s supervisor, who confirmed Lewala had found a diamond. Shortly thereafter, as word of the desert riches spread like wildfire, the town of Kolmanskop blossomed to life.
Buildings such as a butcher shop, bakery, and furniture factory were built in Germanic style from the proceeds of the diamond trade. Such luxuries as a swimming pool, playground and four-skittle alley were also readily available to residents of Kolmanskop. Several affluent residents even had great and elegant houses built. The hospital in Kolmanskop was also equipped with Southern Africa’s first X-ray Machine. The town reached its apex in the 1920’s at which time it was home to approximately 1,140 people– 300 Germans, 40 German children and 800 Owambo workers.
Following World War I the diamond market buckled and the diamond mining trade moved further south to richer deposits found in Oranjemund. Kolmanskop was abandoned in 1954.
Winds and sand have buried much of the abandoned town, but the grandeur of this desert hamlet has been devoured for good. Now, it remains a relic of the past. In 1980, CDM mining company (now Namdeb) was able to restore portions of the town. They also established a museum for tourists.
Kolmanskop is located within a restricted diamond area known as the Sperrgebiet (or “Restricted Area”). Tourists are required to have a permit to enter the town of Kolmanskop. Under no circumstances are tourists to look for diamonds or wander beyond Kolmanskop and into the Sperrgebiet– trespassers into the Sperrgebiet really will be shot. Tourist permits are available from Lüderitzbucht Tours & Safaris located in Bismarck Street, Tel: (063) 202719.
Kolmanskop isn’t without its share of ghost stories either…
Several of the natives who have ventured into the abandoned town have laid claim to a variety of unusual events varying from an eerie feeling in the butcher’s shop to footsteps and voices– some visitors have even reported seeing disembodied figures who disappear into thin air.
If you’re up for a lark, Destination Truth did an episode on Kolmanskop, which is available on Hulu. I’ve linked to it below… but remember to watch these shows with a grain of salt. As much as I’d like to believe things happen in these shows, I can’t completely believe because I have no idea where their cameramen and crew are during filming. (In this particular episode, I have to laugh at the “unusual bloody nose”. As a desert dweller myself, I know it’s not uncommon to experience a bloody nose as the arid climate can dry the mucus membrane in your nostrils and cause cracking and bleeding.)
I hope you enjoy the video.
Destination Truth Episode on Hulu:
More Photos of Kolmanskop: