Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ghosts On The Lüderitz Peninsula

I don't believe in Ghosts but, for this post, let's just pretend I do.

The Lüderitz Peninsula is an eerie place. To the West, the icy Atlantic Ocean, to the East the forbidding Namib desert.

Dull pastel shades predominate and these are even more subdued when the frequent mist rolls in, creating a very strange atmosphere indeed.

There are a few derelict buildings around, like the one above, likely one of the first Lighthouse Keeper's houses at Diaz Point, dating from the early twentieth century.

This house was probably built before 1910 and, my guess is that at one time it was the Lighthouse Keeper's residence.

The lighthouse is automated now and the house is rented-out as a self-service accommodation - I slept two nights here.

As soon as I stepped into the door I felt the Ghosts - of people who in bygone years had lived at this bleak and isolated spot, in a time when transport and communication were very difficult and clumsy.

I didn't feel uncomfortable in my Awareness. I was at peace but the vibe in the house caused me to have a heightened 'sensitivity' for the whole time I was here.

After settling in, I took a walk along the rocky shore and came upon four graves on a beach, just above the tide-line - only one was marked with a headstone.

The inscription in German reads: 'Here Lies The Lighthouse Keeper Theophil Piechaczek, Born 23/4/1873, Drowned 13/5/1905'.

I later discovered that in those times, when the Lighthouse Keeper needed supplies, he was obliged to row across the bay to the town of Lüderitz, a distance of more than 5 km.

Theophil Piechaczek and his assistant had drowned in rough seas upon their return from town that day.

The spooky aura was enhanced by the skeletons of Cape Fur Seals scattered along the shore.

There is a large colony of Seals on a nearby island and it seems that many had come here to die.

I had to remind myself that no massacre had taken place and that the ghosts I was seeing had accumulated over a number of years.

The next morning I climbed the small rocky outcrop on the edge of the ocean, up to the Diaz Cross

It was on this spot in 1488 that the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Diaz, having rounded the Cape Of Good Hope, had erected a stone cross on his homeward journey.

The present cross is a replica but, I was aware of the ghosts of the intrepid seafarers who had passed this way in their flimsy wooden ships more than 500 years ago - what had they thought, how did they feel as they gazed upon this awesome desolation, so far from their homes?

Later, on a drive around the peninsula to visit the numerous bays and fjords, I came upon these two graves on the beach at Knochen Bucht.

Any writing on the wooden crosses has long been erased by the abrasive weather.

Who were these people, how had they died and how did they come to be buried here? Their Ghosts did not answer.

At Wit Muur - White Wall - the magical spot mentioned in an earlier post, The Sea, I found another grave.

There was no writing on the stone and, barring human interference, it will probably still be standing there thousands of years hence.

At Sturmvogel Bucht my heart became heavy for the first time.

I came upon an old Whaling Station with a bleached Whale-skull lashed to a wooden post, bleak testament to the horrific slaughter which had taken place here in years gone by.

American, British and French whalers had hunted Whales to near extinction here early in the last century.

I stood on the causeway where hundreds of thousands of these magnificent creatures' lifeless bodies had been dragged from the sea up to the processing plant, there to be rendered into lamp oil for the hungry European and American market.

Whale numbers have slowly been recovering in recent years but, the damage has been done.

A pet cemetery at Messum Bay - some residents of Lüderitz have buried their beloved pets on the beach.

One grave marker, in German, reads: 'Gypsy Please Come Back' - this plaintive expression of grief caused me to recall how, as a child I had cried for the first time in the face of Death, when my Sausage Dog, Hans, had died.

And then there were my personal Ghosts.

A few days after my 21st birthday in 1972, I had arrived in Lüderitz with my buddy Brian (left in pic) aboard a small wooden Fisheries Research Vessel.

Brian had gone ashore one night and got badly beaten up by some local knuckle-draggers because he had long hair.

I ended up staying in Lüderitz for a year and Brian returned to S Africa - we lost contact shortly afterwards.

There are other Ghosts in Lüderitz but, the horror of their story deserves a separate post.

So, were any of these Ghosts real, or were they just figments of my imagination?

I guess I'll only know for sure if I become a ghost myself ...



  1. Even although I have travelled far and wide - I have never travelled around Namibia - a huge regret because i probably wont get a chance now - or for a long long tme anyway.
    thanks for letting me see a bit through you.

    Love the pic of you and Brian :)

  2. Thanks Slowvelder - I do hope that you make it to Nam someday ... maybe you can put it on your 'to do' list?

  3. What a nostalgic post, Graham. Wow, I relived the past through your writing today. I've been to Luderitz on many occasions when I lived in Oranjemund but cannot remember the Lighthouse Keeper's house. Is it near Elizabeth Bay? Thanks for the walk through the past - and I loved your "personal" ghost story. perhaps Brian reads this post and contacts you. Have a great day. Jo

  4. Fascinating history, and the first photo is a perfect capture of the Atlantic grey skies we see here in eastern Canada.Very bleak and grey, which I have come to appreciate,I no longer see them as gloomy.. I am not certain about the ghosts either..but it seems so little life has been there..nothing that would erase their echo'.

  5. There is something about isolated grave sites that stir the soul. My main question with them is who buried the body and where did they die... were they given the same farewell?

  6. Thanks Jo - Elizabeth Bay is further on down the coast and Kolmanskop is about 15ks to the west of Luderitz in the desert ...

    I'm looking forward to meeting you guys when you visit Nam.

  7. Thanks Monica - I tend to forget that the Atlantic extends all the way up to Canada and, it seems, has the same characteristics as it has here ...

    ... perhaps we give 'life' to the Echoes when we think about them?

  8. I also ask the same questions when I come upon these isolated graves Dave ...

    ... not knowing somehow adds to the 'vibe' surrounding them.

  9. I enjoyed your stories very much and you made them all so real. I also do not believe in ghosts but Spirits Yes!! You never see them but you feel their presence and if you pay attention, they have tales to tell you. Ag man!!! Thanks for telling and showing us what you saw. Keep up th
    e good work. Regards

  10. Thanks Vernon - I never thought of a differentiation between Ghosts and Spirits ... you've given me something to ponder on ...

  11. You are probably more sensitive to the vibes of a place when you know and empathise with the history and knowing some of the stories of those who have gone before.It can also be from ourselves that we are more open to feeling these vibes in certain places.There are stranger things.....!

  12. "There are stranger things ..." - I always try to keep this in mind ... Thanks Peggy.

  13. I think this is one of the best posts you have written (although I love them all). I lived this walk about with you, the pictures and dialogue are amazing, and just maybe by the end of it I could even convince myself that maybe there really are ghosts out there. I was heartbroken by the story of the whales and the pet cemetery is just such a wonderful thought. Great post Graham. Diane

  14. Interesting post and you evoke the ghosts with these misty photos. Whatever did you do in Luderritz for a year? It looks so desolate or perhaps there is there a town there close by to these accomodations?

  15. Thanks Diane - your comments make the time I spent creating the post all worth-while ... in the end I was in two minds whether I should post it or not, I was worried that you guys might think I was a bit soft in the head ... :)

  16. Thanks Penny - Diaz Point (where I stayed is about 10km from the small, isolated town of Luderitz ... about %ks by sea.

    I worked on a Fisheries Research Vessel as a deckhand - scrubbing decks, painting, cleaning toilets and catching and tagging Crayfish ...

    ... I was young then and my body could handle the rough life ...

  17. Oh so you're a sea man. It seems ironic given that you show us so many photos of desert places. Here I live by the sea and am seldom on it. I don't come from a life by the sea. I migrated to it ;-) I do love the sea from afar. I live in earthquake zone and the last time I was one the ocean I went by ferry to Victoria, our capital city. I took my autistic niece and saw a pod of whales. It was beautiful. However it turns out there was a minor earthquake while we were out on the water. That kinda scared me and I haven't been back. Am thinking of going before the Fall in which case you will see it in one of my blogs. It is spectacular scenery along the way.

  18. People love ghosts stories. People love the unknown. But becoming a ghost - don't do that. There are plenty of stories and pictures you need to share on your blog. I don't think a ghost can blog.

  19. I know Bartholomeo Diaz and I thought I saw half of the lost Beatles;)

    Thank you for taking us on this tour, it was most intriguing. The dead are gone forever, but their witnesses, the walls, the beach, the wind, the skeletons, the markers, can whisper stories.

  20. Haha ... no, Penny, I just spent a year working on the sea ...

    ... I have experienced the awesome power of the ocean though - there were times I feared for my life and at other times I was so seasick I didn't care if I died ...

    ... I haven't been to sea since ...

  21. Hehe Lisleman ... surely you've heard of 'Ghost Writers'?

  22. Thanks Fazlisa - when next you see Bartholomeo, please send him my regards :)

  23. There might be no ghosts there but your photos have a haunting quality about them. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Last year I met Namibian author Jane Katjavivi and her husband at the Cape Town Book Fair. We went to dinner and I spoke about one of our trips to Namibia to Luderitz. I told her we camped on Shark Island. I got such a fright when she told me about the terrible things that happened on that island, where so many Herero people died.

    Is this the ghost tale you are going to tell in the future?

    On a different vein, when we were in Luderitz there was an old white man who we kept seeing walking everywhere. When we arrived we saw him collecting litter. One day he was out the penisula walking toward town with a security officer. We stopped to see if they wanted a lift. They got in and we drove for a distance and suddenly the old man broke into loud, boisterous yodelling which continued until we dropped him at his house in town.

  25. Thanks for your visit and comments Phillip.

  26. Hehe Laurie, it must have been quite disconcerting to have the old guy yodeling loudly in your car - luckily you had a security guard ... :)

    Yes, I'm planning to do a post on the Shark Island death camp sometime.

  27. Soft in the head - never, it was a brilliant post and I have enjoyed the comments as well.Diane

  28. Nice news for the Ghost Busters! How interesting your post Graham. -As usual. I have to confess that I fear the ghosts!

  29. Hehe ... thanks Oswaldo ... the ghosts don't scare me - they just make me feel sad sometimes ...

  30. (My computer has been out of action and I've missed reading your posts). A very haunting post - would love to see for myself...