An Empty City Lost Under the Sand in Namibia

An Empty City Lost Under the Sand in Namibia


Imagine a town in the desert, where sand dunes
live in the houses instead of citizens. Each year the sand takes over more and more
of the town. The history of this place is dramatic, mysterious,
and looks more like a legend than a historical fact. Kolmanskop is an abandoned town in the south
of Namibia. It used to be a rich and prosperous town of
diamond miners. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was
the richest town in what was called German South-Western Africa. 10% of the world’s diamond mining was concentrated
there. But 60 years ago, the citizens left Kolmanskop,
and it fell into ruin. But first things first. In 1882, a German merchant, Adolf Luderitz,
bought a small piece of Namibian coast from the chief of the local tribe. He founded a colony there and named it after
himself – Luderitz. In 1884, he asked the German chancellor, Otto
von Bismarck to defend his colony. Not far away, on the coast, Englishmen were
making themselves at home, and Luderitz was afraid of a British invasion. A couple of military ships came from Germany
to the Namibian coast, and the country, which is known as Namibia now, became German South-Western
Africa. The British didn’t mind at first. Colonists and colonial troops were arriving,
and manufacturing companies appeared. A railroad was built between Luderitz and
other towns deeper within the country. But the real story of Kolmanskop started in
1908, when a railroad worker, Zakharias Lewala, found an unusual stone in the sand not far
from the railroad. Lewala’s chief, August Stauch, who was also
an amateur mineralogist, asked his subordinates to tell him about any interesting findings. That’s why Lewala brought the stone to him. Stauch consulted with a friend of his, a mining
engineer, and he confirmed that it was a diamond. They searched the territory and found several
more diamonds. It turned out that a small river was washing
away diamonds, together with the sand, and taking them to the ocean, which threw them
to the shore during high tide. After that, the wind would spread the smaller
diamonds around the desert. Both friends bought the rights for extraction
of commercial minerals on the territory of 30 square miles. Only then did Stauch announce his finding. A couple of years later, the lucky friends
became millionaires. Soon after, the African desert all of a sudden
became a sought-after place for living and working. A diamond fever began. About 6 miles from Luderitz, not far from
the railroad where the first diamonds were found, a mining town was laid out. Later, it was named Kolmanskop. In Afrikaans language it means “Coleman
Hill” after the hill where Johnny Coleman left his truck when caught by a sand storm. The frame work of the truck stuck in the sand
and stood there for dozens of years. Kolmanskop very quickly became one of the
richest Namibian towns. The newly born capital of diamond fever was
built in German style with German solidity. Nothing resembled Africa here, except the
sand and heat. Since it stood right in the middle of the
Namib Desert, they had to import all the things necessary for living, including water. But the local administration wasn’t scant
on expenses: the citizens of Kolmanskop lived not only well, but enjoyed all the luxuries
available at that time. There were only 2 streets in Kolmanskop: all
the houses stood on one, and all the public buildings, like a hospital, a supermarket,
a post office, a bakery, a butchery, a club with a restaurant, a bar, a library and even
a concert hall stood on the other. Kolmanskop was the first South African city
where a horse-drawn streetcar appeared. In 1911, all the city buildings, including
private houses, were electrified. They would first deliver fresh water from
as far as Capetown, which was 618 miles away. During the trip, the liquid would literally
become priceless, but diamonds covered all the expenses. Soon they started producing desalinated water
near Luderitz. And there was an ice manufacturer in the town:
water was frozen in metallic cylinders, and then a streetcar would deliver it to the houses. Kolmanskop had its own label of soda, lemonade
and sausages. Even roses and eucalypt trees grew in the
city in the desert. Kolmanskop citizens were so rich that they
could afford inviting opera singers and theater companies from Europe. The concert hall, apart from the stage and
the floor of the house, had a fully equipped gym and bowling alley. The hospital of Kolmanskop boasted state-of-the-art
devices, and the 2 doctors of the town had totally different, but interesting, approaches
to treating illnesses: one of them prescribed caviar and relaxation to his patients, the
other believed in the magic powers of onion. He had it daily for breakfast, and advised
his patients to do the same. In the first 6 years of its existence, about
5 million carats of diamonds were discovered, which is about a ton of stones. But after 1914, everything changed. Diamond mining reduced to a minimum, because
they were no longer in high demand. German manufacturing and economy were on the
decline. The head of the South African company, De
Beers, took advantage of this situation. He bought the German companies and founded
“Consolidated Diamond Mines”, (CDM) which gained control over the diamond-mining enterprises
of Namibia. In 1915, the ex-British colony, South Africa
(now the South African Republic) occupied Namibia and put an end to the German rule
in this country. But despite all the changes, Kolmanskop kept
developing and getting richer. At the end of the 1920s 344 citizens still
lived there– members mainly consisting of the administration of the enterprise, engineers,
and doctors. There were also 800 workers, who had a 2 year
contract for diamond mining. The workers lived separately, and couldn’t
communicate with the outer world. At the end of their contract, they were even
x-rayed, so they couldn’t swallow diamonds and take them away from Kolmanskop in their
stomach. The x-ray machine that was used there was
the first in all of South Africa. In 1928, on the bank of the Orange River,
170 miles from Kolmanskop, another rich deposit of diamonds was found– and it’s still
being developed. At the same time, fewer and fewer diamonds
were found in Kolmanskop. In 1936, after the Great depression, they
started developing mines on the Orange River. Kolmanskop citizens began moving to different
places, and a couple of years later, the administration moved away too. After so many of the citizens left Kolmanskop,
living there became next to impossible. There was low financing, unemployment, sand
storms, and no fresh water. For some time, the abandoned town served as
a warehouse and traffic terminal for mining equipment deliveries. But very soon, they found out that it was
easier to deliver cargo from the South African Republic. In 1956, the Kolmanskop hospital was closed,
and the last citizens left the formerly prosperous town forever. For more than half a century, it was overwhelmed
with the sand of the Namib Desert. The buildings were preserved thanks to the
dry desert air, and absence of plants and animals. In 1980 “De Beers” made the ghost town
into a museum. In the house that belonged to one of the richest
citizens, the owner of a supermarket (sometimes they even paid for groceries with diamonds),
they reconstructed the domestic furniture of the Kolmanskop citizens. In the concert hall they reconstructed the
bowling alley and a stage. “De Beers” started bringing tourists. A lot of people were interested in seeing
the formerly rich diamond mine, where precious stones could be found right in the sand. The current locals of Kolmanskop are the staff
of the museum, bugs and vipers. It’s hardly possible to imagine this town
in its hay day. Thousands of tourists from all over the world
go there every year to look at the abandoned town and take scenic pictures. Excursions are scheduled on the first half
of the day, because sand storms in the afternoon are too strong and dangerous. Shabby buildings are half or fully covered
with sand nowadays. After some more time passes, the desert will
probably take this town away forever. You remember the man who started it all? Diamonds didn’t bring him happiness either. August Stauch invested his fortune from the
diamonds in different projects, both in Germany and Africa. But the Great Depression didn’t spare him,
and he lost most of his money. That would discourage anyone, but not Stauch. He got hooked on astronomy and physics, and
even tried to prove that Einstein’s relativity theory was wrong. He eventually had to earn his living as a
farmer. In 1938, health issues forced him to go back
to Germany, where he enrolled in the University of Breslau (which is now the Polish city,
Wroclaw). He spent the rest of his life as a student,
and never got rich again. Maybe he shouldn’t have tried to keep the
diamonds all to himself. Do you know any other abandoned cities that
used to be rich before? Let me know down in the comments. Hey, if you learned something new today, then
give this video a like and share it with a friend. But don’t go stick your head in the sand
looking for diamonds just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to
check out. Just click on this left or right video and
enjoy! Stay on the Bright Side of life!

100 thoughts on “An Empty City Lost Under the Sand in Namibia

  1. Live in riverside, tx. When 4 wheeling came across a 1845 grave yard for a forgotten town. Forgot the name… plan on going back.

  2. Fam the way you're butchering my country's name is upsetting.
    Even the location names are annunciated incorrectly.

  3. Guys today is my father's birthday🎂🎉🎁 can i get some likes. Hope your father also live a happy (▰˘◡˘▰) and long life. Please guys.

  4. I lived in Luderitz from the age of 4 to 12. There were only 1000 people there, a German school and an Afrikaans school. As an Italian my father helped build a convent for the nuns and priests, we lived in a house behind the Catholic Church. There was a crayfish factory too, with lots of cheap seafood in those days! As children we were able to be totally free to run around everywhere to the beaches etc all day long till dark, without parents worrying about us! The wind was so hectic at times, I used to walk home backwards as the sand stung against my legs when there were wind storms! To this day De Beers still has the control of diamonds in the whole area – they have special ships with specific electronic equipment etc and they dredge diamonds from the sand under the sea on a constant basis. As an adult, I worked for an engineering company in Windhoek and if we sent anyone to that area to De Beers, we had to fill in a questionaire about the person, and they would be Xrayed when they left the area to return. I now live in Cape Town, South Africa but love Namibia, it is an amazing place.

  5. Khmer empire was used to be prospered before the 15th century then broken down because of having too many wars of invasion from its neighbors countries. Khmer empire had lost its reputation and become a little poor nation called CAMBODIA.🇰🇭🇰🇭🇰🇭

  6. Amazing!
    I am from Namibia and aim to go visit Kolmannskop someday.

    It is one of the most amazing and wonderful ghost town to visit.

  7. TIMESTAMPS:
    A diamond fever 1:37 💎
    Kolmanskop becomes one of the richest towns 3:12
    Why everything changed… 5:26
    The ghost town turns out into a museum 8:05
    What happened to the man who started it all 9:11

  8. wow I bet all the Namibians hearing you say Namibia that way are going crazy i should know because I am one
    NAMIBIA not Nambibia please say it correct next time

  9. So nice to see you making a video of my Home Country.
    BTW
    Namibia is pronounced "Namibia, not Nambibia"
    Great video

  10. Did the white people need immigration visas to enter Africa or were they the typical illegals…Invaders stealing from the natives?

  11. That is one of YouTube’s best advantages; you can go places and see things you don’t have the money for. Bravo YouTube 👍👍👍😃😃

  12. Breslau ( wrolcaw ) thats my university and he said he never got rich again hahahhaah..guess neither am i gonna be rich as well

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