The abandoned city of Kolmanskop

The abandoned city of Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop, a former Geman settlement is located on the west coast of Africa in the southern region of the country of Namibia. The once majestic city sits just 10 kilometers from the sea, built on waves of sands.


The ghost city of Kolmanskop has abandoned for more than 50 years. It’s buildings trying in vain to hold out the encroach of nature. Once a booming place to live, the only residents are the transient tourists who come to photograph the impressive buildings ravished by sand and frozen in time.

The city lies in the Sperrgebiet, (forbidden territory). Visitors must apply for a government permit before visiting the city.


How Kolmanskop started

Kolmanskop is named after a traveler by the name of Johnny Kolman who during a sand storm, abandoned his ox wagon on a small hill opposite where the settlement would one day stand.

At the time, the only thing existing on where Kolmanskop would be were some railroad tracks that ran from the coastal town Luderitz to a bigger town of Keetmanshoop, from there the railway connected with a northern line to the capital of Windhoek.

It was in 1908 when the city started when a railway employee by the name of Zacharias Lewala was performing maintenance on the track. This maintenance involved sweeping the sand from the track before the train was due to come through.

The diamond boom

While performing his duties Zacharias noticed a sparkling stone among the sand. He showed it to his supervisor August Stauch, was positive it was a diamond. Upon confirmation, the news spread quickly and a great frantic diamond rush ensued. Almost overnight people seeking their fortune descended upon the site.

The town grew quickly. Shelters were quickly constructed to shelter workers from the harsh Namib desert heat and conditions. Small business sprang that provided necessities to the treasure seekers.

The city grows

As the city grew large elegant houses were built. Kolmanskop was becoming a proper German town sporting a lot of great modern amenities for the time.

These included:

  • a hospital
  • a ballroom
  • a power station
  • a school
  • a 4-lane skittle alley
  • a theater
  • a sports hall
  • a casino
  • an ice factory
  • a bakery
  • a butcher shop
  • a furniture factory
  • a public playground

The hospital also had the 1st X-ray machine in the southern hemisphere!

Frua Hussmann’s 1926 class at Kolmanskop’s school.
Ice Factory today

Kolmanskop during WWI

Germany’s involvement in World War I interrupted Kolmanskop’s mining operations. After the war, the city rebounded and mining operations resumed. The city continued to grow and reached its highest point of growth around 1920. At this time about 300 German adults, 40 children, and 800 contract workers were residing in the Kolmanskop.

The Decline

The beginning of the end started in 1928 when on the beach terraces of Oranjemund, near the Orange River about 270km south of Kolmanskop large diamond deposits were found. The diamonds could be collected by simply combing the sand on the beaches instead of the much more difficult mining operations.

Many of the town’s inhabitants joined the rush to the south, leaving their homes and possessions behind.

Kolmanskop kept some of its importance as a supply depot for other mining operations, including for the new operation in the south. Soon, however, it became much easier to bring supplies from South Africa. The last three families finally left the town in 1956.

Kolmanskop sand in house

Kolmanskop Today

Today, the city of Kolmanskop retains little of the glory that it had a half-century ago. Without the daily sweeping away of the sands, the former residents would undertake each morning, the sands have taken over many of the buildings. In 1980 the mining company De Beers restored some of the buildings and created a museum to attract tourists.

Kolmanskop house interior
Kolmanskop house
Street view of  Kolmanskop
Street view of Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop in film


  • Dust Devil – 1993
  • Lunarcop – 1994
  • The King Is Alive-2000
  • A 2010 episode of the tv show Life After People.

See also the abandoned city of the Ukraine!

Additional photo credits Kevin Horn Ryan Keller

Ice factory By Olga Ernst – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Snake Island-The World’s Most Dangerous Island

Snake Island-The World’s Most Dangerous Island

Snake Island

The World’s Most Dangerous Island

Snake Island is home to the Golden Lancehead, a very deadly snake. The island is also known as Ilha da Queimada Grande and sits about 21 miles off the coast of Brazil. It is the island with the most venomous snakes in the world, making it the world’s most dangerous island!

History of the Island

Ilha da Queimada Grande means “the island of the big land-clearing fire” in Portuguese since locals in the 19th century used this technique to clear the land. The plan was to build a banana plantation on the island, but as soon as the explorers saw the snakes, plans were quickly abandoned.
The island is just 110 acres or 430,000 square meters it is pretty small for an island. It has many various types of terrain, beaches, grassy areas, rainforest, and bare rocks.
While we all may like to get off the beaten path when we travel, may I suggest you NOT visited this place? It is actually illegal to do so, but if that is not enough to deter you, then an island with thousands of snakes with venom that melts flesh ought to do it!
If you somehow managed to be in a boat around Snake Island, it would appear that an ideal place to head to the shoreline or into the rainforest. It has a calm atmosphere with temperatures running from 19 degrees Celsius in August to 28 degrees Celsius in March. It is easy to see it as just some other beautiful tropical island.

How many snakes are on snake island Brazil?

The island was once thought to have a population of about 430,000 snakes, but some estimates are now lower, but still in the hundreds of thousands.
The island was once part of the mainland, but the snakes became trapped when about 11,000 years ago rising sea levels covered up the land that connected it to the mainland, making it an island. This left the snakes to adapt to their environment, increase rapidly in population.

Are there people on Snake Island?

Not anymore, though at one time whole families lived there to maintain the lighthouse which is still standing. You can find it on Google Earth.

Snake Island Lighthouse

Snake Island Lighthouse

A lighthouse was constructed in 1909 to steer ships away from the island, operated by a single family. During one supply trip, in the 1920s, the crew of the supply boat found the lighthouse abandoned and the door left open. The family was found, dead, having died from attacks by golden lanceheads that had entered the residence. The lighthouse is now automated.

Golden Lancehead snakes entering the lighthouse

The Golden Lancehead snake

The golden lancehead snake (Latin name: Bothrops insularis) is one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. It gets its common name from the golden color of the underbelly grows to about a length of 28 inches but some snakes have been found that have grown to 46 inches.
It is thought that there are between 2,000 to 4,000 golden lancehead vipers on snake island. No one has been brave enough to go count them 1 by 1!
The venom of this most dangerous animal is said to melt human flesh and one bite can cause kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, brain hemorrhaging, and can be fatal within one hour of being bitten.

What do the Golden Lancehead snakes eat?

 The only things the snakes have to eat is birds that land on the island. The golden lancehead snake has evolved to climb and wait in trees, to drop on birds that land nearby.
The snakes have no predators so they rapidly reproduce. Because there are so many snakes on one island there is fierce competition for resources. Some estimates have one snake to every square meter of the island,

Other Snakes of Snake Island

While the Golden Lancehead is the riskiest inhabitant on the island and has the best numbers, they aren’t the only snakes that call it home.
The Sauvage’s Snail-eater is a non-venomous snake and lives on the rainforest part of the island and eats, as their name implies, snails and other little bugs.
I wouldn’t want to run into any snakes, but by comparison, this one doesn’t sound so bad!

Poachers try to steal Golden Lancehead snakes!

Believe it or not, there are poachers who come to the island at night to steal away some of the snakes. On the black market, the snakes can be worth anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 US Dollars.
The only people who are legally permitted on the island are research teams to collect data and samples.

A very unlucky fisherman

According to the travel guidebook Atlas Obscura local people in the waterfront towns close to the island love to relate this terrible story:
A fisherman unwittingly wanders onto the island to pick bananas. Naturally, he is bitten. He manages to return to his boat, where he promptly succumbs to the snake’s venom. He is found sometime later on the boat deck in a great pool of blood. The other story is of the final lighthouse operator and his family. One night, a handful of snakes enter through a window and attack the man, his wife, and their three children. In a desperate gambit to escape, they flee towards their boat, but they are bitten by snakes on branches overhead.

The Brazilian Navy

By law, the island is closed to the public. Like they needed a law!
The Brazillian navy comes by every now and then to make sure the lighthouse is still working. They change the bulb and batteries on a yearly basis. They also patrol to make sure no thrill seekers are wandering the island.
There are no docks on the island, so the navy patrols must land on a small rocky coastline and carry the gear up very harsh terrain, all the while looking out for the snakes!
The ship waiting offshore is well staffed with dedicated medical personnel and to date, there have been no deaths due to snakebite so far.

Why don’t they just kill all the snakes?

Some readers on Facebook have asked why doesn’t the government just kill all the snakes? Apparently, the venom of the Golden Lancehead can provide useful medicine. Some Scientists think that there may be a possible anti-cancer drug or medicine to treat heart disease or blood clots contained in the golden lancehead’s venom.

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Aparently you are never more than 3 feet from a snake on this island!

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Hey, have you heard about the island of cats?
The Ghost Town of Ukraine

The Ghost Town of Ukraine

Pripyat Before

Just Before it all went wrong

It was Saturday in Pripyat, in the Soviet Union. The next weekend would be the annual May Day celebrations, the new amusement park would open with it big Ferris wheel that towered over this 16-year-old city of 49,360 people built to house the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Something, however, was not right. The residents woke up to the sight of plumes of smoke coming from the reactor number 4. An overnight stress test of the systems had gone horribly wrong.


36 hours later authorities started to evacuate the city. Just a few days, they said to the people. At the most maybe a week or two, and then they could home. They never did. Pripyat became a ghost town by that May Day weekend.


Liquidators were a special squad of people sent in to shut down the town. Including groups of female janitors who went from house to house to dispose of any food left behind to prevent infectious disease outbreaks and special hunting squads to remove any domestic animals left behind. This lasted for years with liquidators being rotated to limit exposure to radiation. Some of the liquidators felt unsettled about walking around in the abandoned city. To help with this they set up loudspeakers so the city would not be so quite.

Life After People

As you can see from the before and after images above, the trees have taken over the city. Buildings have been looted and are crumbling.

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School books still sit on the desks waiting for the Monday morning school day that never came.

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The amusement park that never opened


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Oddly enough, this swimming pool was maintained for 10 years after the disaster by the liquidators. Photo from 1996

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The Swimming pool in 2009


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The decaying city is stuck in time with old Soviet Symbols everywhere.
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Thousands of military vehicles had to be abandoned due to radiation

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