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Lost in the Namib for four days

After his return to Germany in January 1976 Klaus von der Ropp’s wife was waiting for him at the airport. (private collection Klaus von der Ropp)

“Since that episode in the desert I drink anything – and with gusto.” He jumps up as I carry our drinks to the table, waits until I am seated and pours for us. Dr Klaus Baron von der Ropp is a lawyer by profession and a gentleman of the old school. In October 2012 he came to Namibia to once again meet the people who came to his rescue on 13...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


The Old Location: Trigger for the Struggle for Independence

The Old Location, with Kaiser Wilhelm Berg in the background.  (Herbert Wilhelm Theis)

One small spark was all that was needed to trigger the eruption. The atmosphere was thick with anger, people crowded around the buildings, hundreds of men and women. Some held stones, others carried iron rods. The police commander’s calls for a peaceful dispersal were answered by boos and whistling. Suddenly a stone banged onto the roof of a...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


The battle for a life in freedom

During dry conditions, when grazing becomes scarce, the horses basically have to ‘work’ for the quantity of nutrients they need. Then they cover vast distances, feed wherever possible and rarely play. Visits to the drinking trough are put off for as long as possible.

Fascination with the wild horses in Namibia’s south-western Namib Desert is compelling. Their origin was shrouded in mystery for decades. Their habitat, the inhospitable plains around Garub, is anything but a paradise. Nevertheless the horses have managed to adapt to the harsh conditions. Their descendants, once in the service of man, regained...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


Custodian of the Namib Wild Horses

Jan Coetzer patrolled the Diamond Restricted Area for CDM.

The wild horses have lived in the Namib Desert for nearly a century, being tempered by the desert conditions, forming the resilient Namib breed. Their origins are shrouded in myth and mystery, and include tales of a shipwreck south of the Orange River and a distraught widow opening the Duwisib castle gates to release the horses after hearing of...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


Shipwreck on the Skeleton coast

The “Gertrud Woermann II” sailed from the port of Hamburg on her second voyage to German South West Africa. She ran aground north of Swakopmund.  (Postcard, collection Gunter von Schumann)

Shipwrecks along the Skeleton Coast testify to the hazards of navigation without modern instruments. The Woermann Line, which operated scheduled shipping services to the German colonies in Africa until the First World War, lost several ships off the southwestern coast, among them the “Gertrud Woermann”, named after Adolph Woermann’s wife. The ship...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


A Spanish Lady leaves a lasting Impression

Lady Juana Maria Smith, 17 years old.

Lady Juana Maria Smith loved and was loved wherever she went. Those who met her on her adventuresome path of life at the side of her beloved husband were enchanted. In South Africa her memory even lives on in the name of a fruit: the cantaloupe or rock melon is called spanspek in South Africa. Lady Juana’s husband, Sir Henry Smith (who...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


Hoba Meteorite - Fragment of a Dwarf Planet

The meteorite on the farm Hoba, 20 km west of Grootfontein. Photo: Sven-Eric Kanzler

“Beware of falling meteorites!” The warning on a sign on the way to the meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein, is in jest of course. It has been almost 80,000 years since a meteorite fell from the sky and hit this spot. But there is a grain of truth in the banter. According to estimates the earth is hit by approximately 500...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


Biltong – a Connoiseur’s Cult Delicacy

Many different biltong specialities were on offer at the 2011 Biltong Festival in Windhoek.

Take a few strips of high quality raw meat, coat it with vinegar, salt, coriander, black pepper and sugar and hang it in an airy dry space protected from flies. About two weeks later your biltong is ready. The mouths of most Namibians and South Africans water at the mere thought of well-seasoned dried meat. It’s hardly surprising that Windhoek’s...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


The stork’s nest in Windhoek

The Elisabeth House in 1908. Behind the bay windows on the right was the delivery room. More than 12,000 babies were born at Elisabeth House in the course of 73 years. Source: National Archives

It is the year 1907. Settler families in German South West Africa live on remote farms and in small villages far apart from one another. The means of transportation are slow and uncomfortable and there are hardly any roads worth mentioning. Serious illness becomes life-threatening in many cases because medical assistance often comes too late. Many...[more]

Category: Gondwana History


Curt von François Leaves a Noteworthy Legacy

Curt von François wearing a colonial uniform (Source: Wikipedia)

He was Reichskommissar and Landeshauptmann of German South West Africa and left a remarkable legacy to the former colony: Curt von François is recognised as the European founder of Windhoek and Swakopmund. A monument was erected in his honour in Windhoek depicting him in the Schutztruppe uniform. Few know that von François was not only a soldier...[more]

Category: Gondwana History

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