Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kolmanskop - Diamonds Aren't Forever

Kolmannskuppe is a Ghost Town in southern Namibia, a few kilometres inland from the port of Lüderitz.

It was a small mining village and is now a popular tourist destination run by the diamond-mining company NAMDEB.

The town was named after a transport driver named Johnny Coleman who, during a sand storm, abandoned his ox wagon on a small incline opposite the settlement - Kolmannskuppe in German and, the generally used name, Kolmanskop, in Afrikaans.

The town developed after the discovery of diamonds in the area in 1908 - which led to a "Diamond Rush".

The rush lead to the establishment of a busy little German-style village, served by a general dealer, butchery, bakery, furniture factory, soda-water and lemonade plant, daily ice and milk deliveries, 4 skittle alleys, a public playground and swimming pool, a grand community centre complex complete with a theatre and an orchestra that played at tea dances, until well after the sun had set.

The discovery of diamonds saw the amazing sight of lines of men, crawling through the desert by the light of a full moon, sifting the sand beneath them for diamonds.

Subsequently, the German authorities declared the land 'forbidden territory' or Sperrgebiet, awarding the Deutsche Diamanten Gesellschaft (DDG) the sole prospecting rights.

The town declined after World War I when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954.

The geological forces of the desert mean that tourists now walk through houses knee-deep in sand.

Kolmanskop is popular with photographers for images of the desert sands reclaiming this once-thriving town - it has also been used as a set for movies and TV series.

The Bookkeeper's house - a most important job when Kolmanskop was producing millions of Deutchmarks worth of diamonds.

The top officials lived in grand style and, it seems, life was pretty good for all, except probably the labourers.

An old Bathtub makes an escape on a sea of sand in front of The Teacher's house.

There's no stopping the sand, slowly but surely it prevails.

One of the crumbling houses with a view over the Desert.

A garage close to the Mine Manager's house - I wonder what grand old Auto it once housed - now it shelters only sand.

Exposed bricks where the abrasive wind has worn away the plaster.

The Mine Manager's house.

In 1980, a number of buildings were restored and more followed with the advent of Namibia as a premier tourist destination.

More pics in my Picasa Album

Related Post: Colonial Architecture Of Lüderitz





  1. It makes one wonder, what cities and towns may be buried deep in the sand. Is that possible, like Venice that keeps sprouting up over the watery ruins

    1. ... it's probably not possible in the Namib desert, but hey, ancient cities have been lost and found before - I think Troy is an example ...

  2. I often wonder how the ancient ruins appear from almost out of nowhere. As this is now a tourist attraction it probably will be preserved as is. Is there accommodation there? The manager's house looks like it could be a small hotel or at least a B & B. Thanks for the extra photos on Picasso.
    The Roman remains near to us were only discovered in 1958, each time I go they just get bigger and bigger. It was obviously a huge town with large monuments and thermal baths. Each time I go, there are students working under supervision opening up more new areas. How does a whole town just disappear for so many years? Diane

  3. Hi Diane - I think that the main buildings can be preserved but I guess that many will deteriorate with time and disappear ... no accommodation at Kolmanskop itself but Luderitz is only 4 km away ...

    ... yeah, it makes me realize that our 80 - 100 years of life is just a flash in the pan ...

  4. You continue to enchant me with your photos & your writing!

    1. Thanks Fran - most of the writing was stolen from the websites I referenced ... :)

    2. Maybe today, but not always. AND, your photos are always wonderful!!!

  5. It's amazing what the sand can do and how much it moves. (hoping I fixed my comment issue)

    1. It seems ok now Jackie - yes, and the sand moves so quickly - close to Luderitz one often sees heavy equipment clearing the sand off the main road when the wind blows strongly ...

  6. Someone came to my camera club a couple of years ago with his pictures of Namibia, and we saw some terrific images of bleak yet beautiful desert with the obligatory dried up tree in the middle... and this village buried in sand. They must have been mainly arty farty pictures because I never forget an image, and I only recognise a few of yours - they were all close-ups of sections of house engulfed in sand. Your pictures show the context, and what the whole building looked like. It's really spooky. I recognise the last Mine Manager's house though. It looks as if it was one of the ones that got restored - it's suspiciously nice looking! That post was a treat.

    1. Thanks Caroline - yes, the Manager's house has been restored and it stands alone in the desert, apart from the other buildings ... I've noticed that in most photos of Namibia and the desert that I've seen, the photographers either darken their images or use some kind of filters - the effects are very beautiful but they're unrealistic ...

  7. any ghosts in this ghost town?
    Great pictures and thanks for researching the story.
    Have you seen the movie "Blood Diamond"? I very sure it's about a country further north up the coast but it's still Africa. I thought that was an excellent movie.

    1. Hehe Bill, there are probably spooks there but I wasn't feeling sensitive to them at the time ...

      I've heard of "Blood Diamonds" the movie but haven't seen it - I think it was supposedly depicting a country in north Africa ...

      ... but Namibia has it's own share of "diamond smuggling' stories.

  8. Hi Graham, I quickly linked to you via my brother (Phillip, of Drakensview) blog. I've had such bad Internet connection and am in the city of Dar es Salaam this weekend so making hay while the sun shines. It was SO good to see this post. I visited Kolmanskop when I lived in Oranjemund and used to fly with the GM's plane to work in Luderitz once every three months. These images brought back so many memories of my life on the diamond mines and also of these people who lived here. Amazing photography as usual. I hope you're keeping well. Blessings, Jo

    1. Thanks Jo - I'm well and I hope that you and Grant are too ...

      ... glad you enjoyed the memories ... :)

      Have a safe journey home.

  9. Hi Graham, this post makes me think of how many dreams lost. How was the sand Graham? Was it easy to walk on? Some areas look like the sand is really soft, but the one inside the room looks like it has been hardened.

  10. Hey Fazlisa - yes, I think many made fortunes here beyond their wildest dreams ...

    Actually, when the pics were taken it was a rare "rainy" period in the Desert, it was overcast and there were no Shadows ... the sand was damp and firm ... not the dry sand inside though that was soft ...