Kolmannskuppe – from diamond fever to ghost town


Kolmanskop, formerly "Kolmannskuppe", yet again is one of those really "crazy" places.

It was one of these days sometime in 1905 when a Nama called "Coleman" got stuck with his oxcart about ten kilometres away from Lüderitz ... maybe his oxes ran off, who knows!?

Shortly after this incident railroad workers who were constructing the railway between Aus and Lüderitz found the first diamonds in the desert ... they just had to pick them up around them. They tried to keep it secret but when they reappeared in civilisation with their pockets full of diamonds, it obviously resulted in the fact that the news spread like wildfire in the colony of "Deutsch Südwestafrika" and a real "diamond fever" began.

After first only private persons were allowed to apply for mining rights, in 1908 the whole area was declared a "Sperrgebiet", a prohibited area. All further concessions were only granted to diamond corporations.


The doctors' house


The small town of Kolmannskuppe, named after the Nama Coleman and completely owned by one of these diamond corporations within only a few years grew into a place where everything existed that was modern and the state of the art at that time:

The old shop now is a small museum showing items left in Kolmannskuppe.

there was a modern shop, a power station producing electricity (to a lesser extent for lighting the houses but more so for an X-ray control of the workers when they would leave the plant),


The hospital


A typical hospital corridor ... a lot of modern hospitals in Africa look worse!

... but here also the sand conquers everything!

in the hospital they had the only X-ray unit on the whole southern hemisphere (and the most modern one at the same time!),


Inside the ice factory


Here seawater was cooled down to produce fresh water iceblocks (in the metal containers).

The "Linde" company still exists in Germany

and even an ice factory they had here in the middle of the desert which supplied the inhabitants with ice blocks for their "refrigerators".


A "refrigerator" ... the meltwater was collected and used in the kitchen.


Apart from that every household got 20 litres of fresh water and even lemonade daily ... delivered free to their houses!


The stove in the butchers ... for making proper German "Leberwurst" and "Blutwurst"


Being a direct neighbor of the ice factory, the butcher used the cold air produced by the ice factory to cool down their cold storage house.


The small train used for passengers and delivering goods to every household ... pure luxury!


A small train connected the small shopping area with the residential houses so that the inhabitants did not have to walk on foot through the dust (also completely for free!!).


The ballhouse which has been restored to be used as a casino. Here also was the ninepin alley, the restaurant and the gymnasium.


The gymnasium-ballroom ... obviously restored recently, but the gym equipment is original and was left behind when the settlement was given up.


The ninepin alley


The restaurant stove


But people also celebrated in Kolmannskuppe! They had an á la carte restaurant, a ballroom (normally used as a gymnasium) and a ninepins alley.


Kolmannskuppe probably was one, maybe even THE ONE, of the richest and most modern cities in the whole of Africa.

The houses were beautifully painted on the inside with elaborate patterns. The lead-paint even today in some places looks as if painted only a ten years ago!

Beautiful patterns can be found in all of the houses ...


They had everything ... and nothing at the same time, because this place really is "in the middle of nowhere": no local fresh water, no perspiration, no fertile soil for growing plants or vegetables ... only sand, sand, sand and wind and obnoxious heat ... and diamonds, of course!


This beam still bears the destination print "Lüderitzbucht"


Every drop of water and the complete material for building and furnishing the houses had to be delivered here from far away, most of it came by sea (sometimes as assembly kits) from far away.


The old flag of the sports club reading "deutsch, stark und frei", "German, strong and free".



But after less and less diamonds were found and the search for new sited was directed further down south to the Orange river, the mining of diamonds finally was stopped completely here in Kolmannskuppe in 1930. 26 years later, in 1956 the last inhabitant left this place which then became a "ghost town".


Today, again, diamonds are mined here by opencast mining. only since a couple of years ago Kolmanskoppe, still in the prohibited area, can be visited by tourists.


But the ever moving sand gnaws and nibbles at the houses and consequently destroys them bit by bit ...


Soon, nothing will be left of this small town once posh and vivid. Hidden under the sand, gone with the wind and grinded up to fine dust by millions and squillions of grains of sand. The desert claims back its own!

In Germany the government would probably would put a preservation order on this place; here Kolmanskoppe still belongs to the mining company NAMDEB.


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