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NAMIBIA HISTORY LÜDERITZ 1907 THE DIAMOND RUSH. The finding of gold may bring upon a rush, but the news of diamonds laying ready to be picked up from the sands of the desert caused the

 

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Luderitz Diamond Rush 1907 and onwards

     

Zacharius Lewala

Zacharius Lewala

The Railroad Surveyor and the Observant Labourer: In 1907 the German, August Stauch arrived in Luderitz. His motivation for coming to the new colony was that he suffered from asthma and it was thought that the dryer climate of the desert may be more suitable for his health. Stauch settled into his new way of life, and job as Bahnmeister, apparently better than most. He listened with a passionate interest to the tales about  Adolf Luderitz and the his belief that there lay, hidden by the desert sands, diamonds. There were those who scorned August's fascination with the subject for even the  geologists who had scoured the area had failed to find the elusive stones. Stauch was not to be deterred and even managed to obtain from Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft fur Südwest Afrika a prospecting license Many of his native workers had been brought in from South Africa for their previous experience of railroad workings and he asked them to look for any unusually bright stones as they worked their way along the rail-track. One such worker was Zacharius Lewala. He had previously worked on the diamond mines of Kimberly, and it was after only two weeks of hearing his boss's request that he was able to report that he had found a pretty stone. Stauch scratched the glass of his watch with the stone and it was cut deeply. He believed it to be a diamond, but knew better than to make any announcement. He quietly resigned his position with the railroad company and having gained some financial backing, pegged his claim and began a systematic search of the area. He found more 'pretty stones', and took these to the Government laboratory in Swakopmund, where on 20 June 1908 they were confirmed as being diamonds - a date that would bring dramatic changes to Luderitz and the country.

Auugust Stauch

August Stauch

Building the Luderitz Rail-Line

Building the Luderitz Rail-Line

They came to the Diamond-Fields any way they could

They came to the diamond-fields any way they could

 

The finding of gold may bring upon a rush, but the news of diamonds laying ready to be picked up from the sands of the desert caused the small town to descend into chaos. Applications for prospecting licenses poured in from all over the country. The local population 'closed shop'; succumbed to 'diamond fever' and poured into the desert as fast as they could.

Stauch's claim Board

Stauch's Claim Board

Sifting for alluvial Diamonds

Sifting for alluvial diamonds

Diamond working outside of Luderitz

Diamond working outside of Luderitz

 

The German Government took immediate interest in the activities at Luderitz and dispatched the Secretary For The Colonies to the town to investigate the situation and attempt to bring about a more business like and control to the industry. The Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft limited the issuing of licenses and a system of diamond taxation was introduced. An amount of order was brought to the industry, but the mining operations could still be considered 'wild-cat', inefficient and often wasteful. Further improvements were needed.

 

The town enjoyed a boom time and a considerable amount of development between 1908 and 1914. Note the sailing ship in the bay.

Sorting the gravel

Sorting the gravel

Luderitz the diamond boom-town

Luderitz the diamond boom-town

Schutztruppe blow-up the Luderitz Rail-line

Schutztruppe blow-up the Luderitz Rail-Line

 

The First World War in August 1914 brought a cessation in diamond mining at the Kolmanskop and Area diggings.

 

Governor Dr Sietz

Governor Dr T Sietz

 

Ernest Oppenheimer

Ernest Oppenheimer

The surrender of the German colony  by Governor Dr. Theodore Sietz on 9 July 1915 to General Botha and the army of the Union of South Africa brought a somewhat revival in the diamond mining in the area. The issuing of licenses to mine was limited to nine companies. And it was during this period that a man who was already well qualified and involved in the mining industry passed through the town and made an interesting observation while at the diggings. He noted the inefficiencies of the small companies that worked the claims. The visitor returned to South Africa

where, by 1917 he had risen to become the chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa. The company was involved in gold mining. But he hadn't forgotten things that he had seen while visiting the diamond fields outside of Luderitz. In 1919 he decided to formulate a plan that

would revolutionize the diamond industry as a whole, and met with the representatives of the larger German companies that had mining operations in the LuderitzLuderitz area and negotiated their purchase. In February 1920 he formed the company Consolidated Diamond Mines' (CDM). His name was Ernest Oppenheimer.

 

Acknowledgements and further reading:  H3, H5, M4, P2

 

Local Area Attractions & Articles of Associated Interest:

Peninsular Map Accommodation

Adolf Lüderitz

Bartholomew Diaz Diaz Cross Kolmanskop Tour  Luderitz Diamonds

 Of Interest: In the period 1908 to 1914 some 5,000,000 carats of diamonds were recovered from the desert around Luderitz.

 
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