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GHOST TOWN. KOLMANSKOP.

 In 1882, a German merchant Adolf Luderitz bought a small section of the Namibian coast from the chief of the local tribe and founded a settlement here, which he named after himself — Luderitz. At the beginning of 1884 he asked for protection for his settlement from the German Chancellor Bismarck. The British had been having it their own way in the neighbourhood on the coast, so Luderitz feared a British invasion. Then a couple of warships from Germany came to the Namibian coast, and as a result, the country which is now called Namibia became the German South-West Africa. The British did not object for the time being. Immigrants started coming there, industrial companies emerged and there appeared colonial troops. And a railway was laid between the coastal Lüderitz and towns inside the country.
In 1908, a railway worker Zacharias Levala found an unusual stone in the sand near railway tracks. Head of Levala, foreman August Stauch, a keen lover of mineralogy at the same time, had requested that his staff informed him about their interesting dicoveries, so the worker brought the stone to him. Stauch consulted with his friend, a mining engineer, and he confirmed that it was a diamond. So, both friends bought the right to mining of minerals on the territory of 75 square kilometers, and only then announced the discovery. A few years later, both became millionaires. The future life of August Stauch was not an easy one. After the enrichment, he invested money in various projects and companies, both in Germany and in Africa, seeking to increase his fortune. However, the Great Depression brought him almost complete ruin. But Stauch didn't commit suicide or go on a binge, but instead, he became interested in astronomy and physics, and even tried to prove the inconsistency of Einstein's theory of relativity. Now he was making a living with farming. In 1938 his failing health forced Stauch to return to Germany where he entered the University of Breslau (now Polish Wroclaw) and spent almost all the remaining years of his life being a student. Stauch died in 1947 in poverty.
But it was much later, and in 1908 people willing to become rich flooded into the African desert: diamond fever began. About ten kilometers from Lüderitz, not far from the railway, where the first diamonds were discovered, a town of prospectors was founded which was later called Kolmanskop. In Afrikaans, it means "Coleman's hill" – named after a local attraction, the hill on top of which in 1905 a certain John Coleman left back his truck caught in a sandstorm. The frame of the truck got stuck in the sand and stood there for several decades.
There were only two streets in the town — with residential houses and with various public buildings: a hospital, a shop, a post office, a bakery, a slaughter-house which included a smokeroom, a club building with a restaurant, a bar and a library, and even a concert hall. There was no church in Kolmanskop, but every two weeks German colonists would travel for ten kilometers to attend a service in one of the churches of the neighboring Luderitz.
Kolmanskop quickly became one of the richest towns of Namibia. As the town stood in the middle of the desert, all necessary things including water had to be imported. But the local administration did not skimp on costs: people in the town didn't just live well but their life was really luxurious. The first horse-tram in South Africa appeared in the town and in 1911 electricity was installed in all buildings including residential houses. Fresh water was first brought from as far as Capetown, but after a while they began to produce desalinated water near Luderitz. The town had its own factory producing ice which was frozen in metal cylinders and delivered to the houses by horse-tram every day. People in Kolmanskop brewed their own beer, made soda water, lemonade and sausages. Roses and eucalyptus trees were growing in a town in the middle of the desert.
Residents of Kolmanskop were so rich that they could afford inviting opera and theatre troupes from Europe. Besides the stage room, the concert hall was equipped with a gym and a bowling alley. The town hospital could boast of the latest medical facilities. It was practiced by two doctors, whose approach to the treatment of diseases was radically different. For some time, there were two practicing doctors with completely different approaches to treating diseases. One of them would daily prescribe patients having caviar with champagne in order to improve their vigour, the other believed in the miraculous power of finely chopped onions: he himself had them for breakfast every morning and prescribed the same to his patients.
About five million carats of diamonds were found in Kolmanskop before World War I (that's about a ton of stones). But everything changed with the beginning of the war. Mining in Kolmanskop reduced to a minimum because, due to the decline that had gripped German industry, it was impossible to sell diamonds. The head of South African company De Beers took advantage of the situation. He bought out shares of German companies and founded “Consolidated Diamond Mines” (CDM) – a company that gained control of Namibia's diamond mining industries. In 1915, the former British colony of South Africa (now South Africa) occupied Namibia, and German rule in that country came to an end.
Nevertheless, Kolmanskop continued to grow and prosper even after the war. At the end of the 1920-s 344 white settlers (300 adults and 44 children) lived in the town – members of the enterprise administration, engineers, doctors. 800 local workers were directly involved in diamond mining, each of whom had a two-year contract. Workers lived separately, and during the contract they were forbidden to communicate with the outside world. At the end of the contract, all workers were obligatory placed in a quarantine barrack, where for a week they were forced to take a strong laxative — castor oil. The toilets in the barracks were equipped with special nets to hold the naturally released diamonds swallowed by the most adventurous workers. The development of modern technologies has made it possible to reduce the use of castor oil. An x-ray machine (the first in South Africa) appeared in Kolmanskop, in order to examine all the workers at the end of the contract. Now only “the luckiest” had to be stuffed with laxative medicine.
In 1928 another rich diamond deposit was found on the banks of the Orange river, 270 kilometers from Kolmanskop (it is still being developed). At the same time, fewer and fewer diamonds were found near Kolmanskop. In 1936, after the Great Depression, the development of deposits on the Orange river began. Residents of Kolmanskop began to move to the new place, and a few years later the administration of CDM also moved there. For some time The town served as a warehouse and transshipment point for the supply of mining equipment for some time, but it soon became clear that the goods are easier to bring from South Africa. In 1956 the hospital in Kolmanskop was closed down and the last residents left the once-thriving city.
In 1980 De Beers organized a museum in the Ghost town. In the house where at the beginning of the century there was a shop and its owner, one of the richest residents of the town, lived there (sometimes miners would pay her with diamonds for the groceries), the atmosphere of the white settlers of Kolmanskop was recreated. In the building of the former concert hall the bowling alley and the theater stage were reconstructed. Today you can meet a few employees of the museum, some pervasive tourists, some beetles and sand vipers in Kolmanskop. And it is almost impossible to imagine what the town looked like in its heyday.

 

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