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Ghost town in the dunes

Graeme Williams

Kolmanskop - Photographs by Graeme Williams

Kolmanskop is a ghost town situated 10 kilometres from Luderitz on the Namibian south coast. It was here in 1908 that a labourer working on the rail link picked up a diamond. This find sparked a rush of prospectors to the area. The town was named after an early Afrikaner traveller called Jan Kolman whose ox-wagon became bogged down in the sand dunes surrounding the town.

This once wealthy town boasted a casino and skittle alley during its heyday. The town was the headquarters of Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM) when the area was the centre of diamond exploration in the 1920s. Richer deposits of diamonds were found around the mouth of the Orange River in 1928 and in 1944 CDM relocated to the town of Oranjemund. The last of the Kolmanskop residents, including hospital and transport staff, left in 1956 abandoning the town to the encroaching sand dunes.

The deserted rooms of many of the often ornate houses are slowly filling up with sand. This together with the filtered light and the haunting winds that often pick up during the day, make it a particularly visual feast and it has become a popular tourist destination for visitors to the area.


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