Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Exploring the diamond towns of Kolmanskop and Elizabeth Bay

Namibia is famous for the production of diamonds along its extensive coastline.  Silt (and diamonds) have been washed down the Orange river from Witwatersrand into the ocean at the mouth of the Orange river  for millions of years.  The Benguela current which flows northwards,  takes the silt up the coast, depositing diamonds all along the Namib coast.  The sand is blown inland forming the massive dunes that Namibia is so famous for.
The first diamonds were discovered near Luderitz in 1908 and, once mining became a reality, two mining towns sprang up in the desolate sands about ten kilometres east of Luderitz; One at Kolmanskop and a second at Elizabeth Bay, 15 kilometres south down on the coast.  Mining ceased at both sites in the 30s - although since new extraction techniques have been developed, it mining has started again at Elizabeth Bay.
Today Kolmanskop is a ghost town.  Part of the sizeable township has actually been restored - the casino, gymnasium and a few other buildings - but the rest of the community consisting of dozens of houses is slowly being swallowed up by the continuously driving sand.  It's a great place for photographers, especially if you are into HDR shooting - some of the houses are now too dangerous to get into - while others are relatively well preserved because the climate is so dry.

Kolmanskop is easy to get to a few hundred metres off of the main Aus to Luderitz highway.  But because Elizabeth Bay is now back in an active mining area you must hire a guide who has the concession to take visitors to the ghost town - the process of getting through security takes 20 or 30 mins, including a breathalyser test.  The houses in Elizabeth Bay were fashioned out of sand and cement - and not very well - so now the wind is actively sand-blasting the bricks and mortar out of existence.  Many of the buildings have collapsed - although we did get into the casino to shoot a few frames.  Kolmanskop is in better shape and proved to be a lot more colourful.

Part of the original casino at Elizabeth Bay

Part of the original casino at Elizabeth Bay
A timber house overlooking the South Atlantic ocean at Elizabeth Bay
A couple of the renovated buildings at Kolmanskop with abandoned houses off in the distance
A low angles gives you a good idea of the harshness of the environment.
Airborne sand acts like a powerful sand-blaster

Kolmanskop interior detail

Kolmanskop interior detail

One of the larger houses at Kolmanskop - probably a manager's house displaying strong German architectural influences

No comments:

Post a Comment