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Pics: African diamond mining town that's filling with sand

Abandoned since 1954.

IN THE NAMIB desert in southern Namibia lies a ghost town known as Kolmanskop.The town was once home to approximately 1,000 miners and their children, but today only tourists with the proper permits may enter the perimeter of the “Sperrgebiet” or “Prohibited Area.”

The story goes that in 1908, a worker named Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone and showed it to his supervisor, August Stauch. Stauch saw the rock, and realized the area was rich in diamonds. The news spread quickly, sparking the migration of German miners and fortune-seekers to the area.

The diamond field was called “Sperrgebiet” by the German government, and the miners began to settle down and build the town with their families. Homes and establishments were erected in the German-style, and Kolmanskop became prosperous due to the enormous wealth of those first miners.

The town had a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, swimming pool, casino, and even a bowling alley, and it was also the first in the South African region to own an x-ray machine.

But by the end of the first World War, the diamond field was near-exhaustion. And by 1954, Kolmanskop was completely abandoned. The remaining homes today are slowly filling with sand and only visited by tourist groups who come to see the ghost town.

Pics: African diamond mining town that's filling with sand
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    An aerial view of Kolmanskop shows how secluded it is in the Namib desert. (Google Maps)
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    A lone sign welcomes visitors as it warns against diamond theft — a problem the barren desert region no longer faces. (Virginia Millington/Flickr)
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    A view of some of the remaining buildings that have not yet been destroyed by the sand. (Wikimedia Commons)
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    Some are completely buried in sand as the desert slowly swallows up the mining town.
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    In those still standing, the sand is beginning to reclaim them too.
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  • Kolmanskop

    (Wikimedia Commons)
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    Footprints show the passage of tourists who get special permits to come here. (Damien du toit/Flickr)
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    Not everything is worn down - the community theatre is pristine and intact. (Virginia Millington/Flickr)
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    The creepy bowling alley is also untouched, from the pins to the turn-of-the-century ball return apparatus. (Virginia Millington/Flickr)
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    Some homes are not buried by sand, but stripped by wind. This was the home of the former mining director. (Wikimedia Commons)
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    Inside, the original furnishings and decor - in German style - are still intact. (Wikimedia Commons)
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    A small stove and delicate tablecloth remain intact for visitors to see. (Wikimedia Commons)

- Megan Willett

Published with permission from
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