Kolmanskop was one of the richest towns in Africa during its heyday of diamond mining. Diamonds were so common they could be picked out of the sand.
Within two years after the first diamond was found at Kolmanskop an unparalleled town development took place; Kolmanskop became the richest town of Africa and one of the richest towns worldwide. They developed an infrastructure that was unmatched at the time; from 1911 the town had electric power, luxurious stone houses, a casino, a school, a hospital, an ice factory to produce ice for fridges, a theatre, a ballroom, a sport-hall, a bowling alley, a salt-water swimming pool and much more although less than 400 people lived here. Noteworthy is that the hospital had the first x-ray apparatus in southern Africa installed. It probably also served to control workers, who might have swallowed diamonds.
People believed the diamond finds would last and built luxurious homes assuming they would settle permanently. After ~20 years, the diamond finds diminished and a more lucrative find was discovered up the coast. Kolmanskop was abandoned. ( https://www.info-namibia.com/activities-and-places-of-interest/luederitz/kolmanskop)
It was only when we arrived onsite at Kolmanskop that it occurred to me I should have done my research on what a raw diamond in the sand might actually look like. It wouldn’t be cut or polished, but would it sparkle?
As a photographer, an old ghost town can be a gem of a photographic opportunity. The idea of capturing the past in the present day light is intriguing. The old fixtures, the broken windows and worn down structure all have potential to tell a story. Especially for me who loves old architecture and abstract patterns. Would I find those special images, my photographic diamonds?
The town was built on the hillside of a large sand dune. The buildings stretched out across the hillside and beyond. With limited time and so much area to cover, where do I start?
I headed up the hill to the largest home sitting separately on the eastern end of town. I was thinking it was owned by someone rich, perhaps the town mayor? Mine owner? Would there be a stash of diamonds to be found there?
My desire to find diamonds of the carat variety were quickly replaced with a desire to capture the best images of a ghost town. For me the diamonds are the unique images I can discover and capture. Real gems would just be a bonus on the day.
The buildings were in remarkably good condition. Decorative paint borders adorned the walls. Most doors and windows were in place. However, many windows had been broken and with desert sandstorms, I soon met my obstacles. Many doors and halls were often blocked by sand drifts. To enter a home often meant crawling through sand drifts and narrow window openings.
My day ended before day’s end. After over 6 hours of hiking and crawling in the sand and squeezing through windows with a heavy backpack of gear, I no longer had the energy to discover any new diamonds. I suspect I left a few for the next photographer to discover.
What do you think, do the diamonds I discovered sparkle?
Oh what fun to explore. Yes, you’ve captured some gems! I love exploring ‘ghost towns’. This one sounds amazing. Not sure I’ll ever get there. I love trying to imagine what life would have looked like back then. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for following along on our adventures. This ghost town was a little different and perhaps, better for me for two reasons. First, as it was a one time a well to do town, so the construction was more interesting. Secondly, the sand created a whole new dimension. It was fun. I wish I had had the energy to stay through the late afternoon hours and capture different light.
Wow these are super cool with an air of eeriness as well. What a fun shoot! I’m sure you could have easily spent more time there exploring.
I would have loved to have spent another day, but I had reached my limit on our first visit. For me, I can always return to a location as I continually seek to improve my shots.