A hundred years ago today: Dancing with the devil – Spanish flu reaches south western Africa - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

Namibia with Heart and Soul: Take our hand and let us introduce you to this awe-inspiring country. Come and stay with us, experience Namibia.

WELCOME TO GONDWANA COLLECTION

Where the Namib Desert stretches languidly from the Atlantic Ocean and wild land extends into infinity, dreams become real. At this place where fantasy meets reality, you'll find the Gondwana Collection safely positioned.

Take our outstretched hand and let us introduce you to our extraordinary country, Namibia. From the massive chasms of the Fish River Canyon, the fossilised dunes of the Namib Desert and the red sands of the Kalahari Desert to the waterways of the Kavango and Zambezi, there are countless marvels to behold. Explore this awe-inspiring wilderness from the warmth of our lodges, created with conservation cognizance and ample character. And return to relax after an exciting day of discovery.

This is the Gondwana feeling: Namibia with heart and soul.

Come and stay with us, experience Namibia.

About us

Namibia Road Map 2018/19

Anyone touring Namibia should definitely take our road map along. It is available from Gondwana free of charge, or as pdf download. This map features fascinating experiences plus recommended accommodation. At the same time it is an ordinary road map with all the essential information of the official Namibia road map by Prof. Uwe Jäschke and the Roads Authority of Namibia.

Join the Gondwana Holiday Bonanza!

Stand the chance to receive a full refund for your accommodation booking, as well as an exclusive weekend away at The Desert Grace! Holiday season is fast approaching and we at Gondwana want you to enjoy it as much as possible! Here’s how it works: Book your accommodation now via the Gondwana website for October 2018 through to 31 March 2019 and use your valid online order number to participate in the Gondwana Holiday Bonanza. Terms & Conditions apply. 

Namibia2Go Car Rental

Namibia 2 Go

Experience Africa like never before. Explore Namibia your way with our well-maintained and fully inclusive rental vehicles.

Easy. Hassle free. Unforgettable.

Go Big

Discover Namibia’s main attractions.

This package offers a four-wheel drive vehicle and a thirteen day trip through the beautiful Namibian landscapes. Starting from Windhoek you will head south, into the Kalahari where your first night will be spent enjoying the sunset at the Kalahari Anib Lodge.

 

                         More Info & Availability

Go Epic

Experience Namibia's famed locations.

Take eleven days to discover Namibia in an Epic way. This self drive safari - which includes a four-wheel drive vehicle - will take you to the famous Namibian locations that will make you long for the vast open spaces long after you return home. Starting in Windhoek you will head south to the Kalahari Desert.

 

                           More Info & Availability

Go Wild

Track Namibia's awesome wildlife.

This 12 day self drive safari includes a four-wheel drive vehicle and stopovers at all major wildlife-viewing sites. Starting from Windhoek you will head towards the famous Etosha National Park, where 3 nights will be enjoyed at the unique Etosha Safari Camp.

 

                           More Info & Availability

Car Rental

Enjoy an active Namibian adventure.

We offer a comprehensive travel service including car rental, accommodation, safaris and self-drive itineraries and day trips. Interested? For detailed information and vehicle specifications of our Renault Dusters SUV 4WD and Toyota Hilux Double Cabs 4x4, please click below.

 

                           More Info & Availability

Gondwana's Newsroom

A hundred years ago today: Dancing with the devil – Spanish flu reaches south western Africa

Avatar of inke inke - 09. October 2018 - Discover Namibia

Mannfred Goldbeck

On the 9th October 1918, the first victim of Spanish flu in the country was reported. The devastating epidemic that had spread across the world like wildfire had finally reached South West Africa (present day Namibia).

This little-mentioned epidemic was no small flu. It rushed around the globe with a vengeance and claimed 20 to 100 million people, more than the casualties from both world wars put together. It is estimated that 2.5 per cent of the world population fell victim to its brutal onslaught.

After it took the life of train steward, Mr J Bester, in Windhoek, other casualties began to be reported. When the Union of South Africa troops entered German South West Africa at the onset of World War One, 250 soldiers from both sides were lost in the fighting. The epidemic that raged across the globe between August and November 1918, at the tail end of the war, would kill ten times that amount. 

It was spread via the transport routes: the railways, the waterways and the footpaths. It knocked the steam from populations whose immune systems had been weakened during the war with its stresses and food shortages, and when movement of troops across the world was at a high. 

The Spanish flu swept through the Aus prisoner-of-war camp in 1918. (Source: Namibia National Archives)

The epidemic, which started with symptoms like headaches, aching limbs, a flushed face, red eyes, a quick pulse and high temperature, had its beginning in North America. Two ships, the Jaroslav and the Veroney, carried it to Cape Town. The South African labour contingents on board, who had been helping in the war effort, stopped en route in Freetown on the west coast of Africa, where the epidemic was rife. In southern Africa, it quickly spread upcountry all the way to the Zambezi in southern Rhodesia. It claimed the lives of 140 000 people in South Africa alone. 

Those four months in 1918 put the world in crisis. The epidemic was blind to social boundaries and norms and affected everyone equally, irrespective of race, nationality and religion. 

Surprisingly, although vicious and swift, the epidemic was kept quiet so as not to lower the soldiers’ morale. Spain, however, who was not at war, was free to report on it, and while far from its source in North America, the epidemic became known as Spanish flu.

The tragedy brought good Samaritans out of the woodwork and people began to help each other across national and racial divides. The real heroes were the health-workers - the doctors, nurses, missionaries and nuns - many of whom also lost their lives.

People are always eager to pinpoint the area where the flu began, and the first casualty. This ‘patient zero’ as he is referred to, is thought to be an Albert Gitchell who died in Boston on 4 March 1918.

In the US, the hardest hit place was Bristol Bay in Alaska where forty per cent of the population perished. In South Africa, ten per cent of the population in the Ciskei died. Generally, worldwide, the death toll was highest in the poorer countries, and everyone was affected, even the countries not at war. It is said that the fatalities are underestimated as many of the deaths, especially in the rural areas and across Asia, were unreported.

Spanish flu was not the first flu epidemic known to humankind. In 1830, Europe suffered from a fierce flu epidemic and in 1889, the Russian flu killed about a million people. These epidemics had their roots in the nineteenth century at the time of the industrial revolution when people left the countryside and flocked to the towns and cities. The rapid expansion and the crowded conditions were a fertile breeding ground for disease.

Doctors had no experience of how to deal with Spanish flu, and treatment included fresh air, Epsom salt, castor oil, aspirin and bed rest.

Funeral at the cemetery in Aus, 1918. (Source: Namibia National Archives)

Simply called influenza in southern Africa, the pandemic arrived at a low point in southern African history, after the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa from 1899 to 1902, the Nama-Herero uprising in 1904 to 1907, a period of severe drought and World War One (1914-1918). To top it all, was the economic depression that arrived in the wake of the war. 

In South West Africa, the main areas affected were the railway hotspots - Karasburg, Windhoek and Usakos - and the mining areas - Tsumeb, Windhoek and Swakopmund. The epidemic also spread its tendrils into the crowded township areas like the Old Location.

It swept through the Aus prisoner-of-war camp, where German soldiers were interned and affected friend and foe with equal measure. There was no division or prejudice in its reach. 

Good Samaritans are remembered, like Gabriel (surname unknown) from Outjo for his selfless service with the ill and deceased, and Mrs Nelson from Aus, the wife of the South African Major, who gave her life while helping to nurse both South African soldiers and German prisoners.

Mary Ann 'Breeza' Nelsonand her husband Garrison Adjutant, Major Edward Irving Nelson. As a tribute to her selfless commitment she was buried with military honours – even though she was a civilian. The inscription on her gravestone reads: "She gave her life while she wanted to help others".

The influenza was also known by the Herero word ‘kapitohanga’, referring to the fact that it killed people faster than bullets. And, it did. It was urgent, ferocious and unstoppable. The world reeled, hospitals were overflowing and graves were filled faster than they could be dug.

Epidemics will always be inevitable on the planet, but whether one will again bring such devastation remains to be seen and its effect will be determined by the world and the time period it arrives in.

If there is any lesson to glean from this cruel and swift epidemic, it is perhaps that while we distance ourselves from others, fight our enemies for land, power and racial supremacy, in essence we are all one. 

Old Gammams Graveyard tombstones.
New comment

0 comments

Explore the Gondwana Blog

Subscribe to our blog and receive email notifications of all our latest articles & stories.

View the Blog

Canyon Klipspringer Trail

Hiking in almost pristine nature, this slack packing trail only runs from April to September.

Read more

Stay up-to-date with our monthly 'Gondwana Tracks' Newsletter Sign up Today