March 31, 2016

Namibia's Skeleton Coast

The bones of more than a thousand ships are said to be scattered on the shores of the coast we're following north. Before the days of GPS, when the daily fogs rolled in, the navigators aboard ships were easily disoriented. I can see why. The roar of the surf is omnipresent, it seems to come from all directions as it bounces off the thousand foot high dunes.

We tucked into Hottentot Bay last night to let a heavy swell roll through (though it rolled right into the anchorage) and to take in some of the dune-scape. Even if the surf on shore weren't as high as houses, I'm not sure we'd venture onto the beach. There are the bones of an old ship, which would be interesting to explore, and miles and miles of sand. But as gorgeous as it is, it seems forbidding.

I doubt many of the old ship wrecks have ever been explored. The treasure here is diamonds. We saw the diamond boats preparing to go out while we were in Luderitz. Setting off for weeks on end-each small boats had a diver aboard and a vacuum-like device. The boats search out signs of ancient river beds on the ocean floor and then the diver goes down and starts to vacuum up the gravel.

If a diamond of more than a carat is found in the sample-they vacuum up all the gravel and eventually return it to Luderitz for processing. This way no human hands touch the raw diamonds and try to secret them away. The diamond divers earn about $6 US per carat on these high quality conflict-free diamonds. The fishermen here earn more.

Diving for diamonds might seem like an interesting way to feed the cruising kitty-but beyond the fact the water temperatures are 12-14C, the diamonds are found in restricted areas with huge buffers and well-armed guards. There's no fun family fossicking here. One local told us that in the desert in the restricted area "diamonds are as common as bird shit". He speculated that if outside eyes saw just how common they are their value would have to go down.

Having never been a real fan of diamonds, I'll continue to concentrate on the other treasures of this coast. Yesterday we were surprised by a pod of monster-sized dolphins. They came into Luderitz like a team of commandos. You could hear their wakes from hundreds of meters away as they spread out through the anchorage catching fish. Later-a monster-sized seagull caught my eye as it floated near the boat. I called Ev and Maia out to see it as it spread its giant wings and soared off as an albatross.

Hopefully this version comes through properly. Images will come separately.

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