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SWAKOPMUND NAMIBIA HISTORY THE MOLE: Swakopmund had no natural harbour, so the ships had to anchor about one kilometre from the shoreline. Cargo was off- loaded onto rafts or special surf boats designed to negotiate the heavy seas. The Kroo tribesmen...

 

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Swakopmund Mole - a history

Commissioned in 1903 this structure still offers a safe harbour and swimming area

   
Swakopmund District Identity Token

Identity Token

Loading passenegers into surf boats at Swakopmund 1890s

Loading Passengers

Beach Horsemasters overseeing offloading of livestock

Beach-masters

Horses coming ahsore from barges at Swakopmund 1904

Horses coming Ashore

       

Swakopmund had no natural harbour, so the ships had to anchor about one kilometre from the shoreline. Cargo was off- loaded onto rafts or special surf boats designed to negotiate the heavy seas. The Kroo tribesmen had used a similar method on the Liberian coast for many years, and teams of these skilled boatmen were brought in under contract to Swakopmund to ‘work the surf.’ At the height of activity the Woermann Line employed nearly 600 of these men.

 

Deutsches Afrika Line Poster

Deutsches Afrika Line

The general movements of all settlers within the colony was known. Native workers employed within the Swakopmund Magisterial District were issued with a numbered stamped brass identity token which had to be carried at all times. These tokens are now collector items.

 

Rafts were built onto which livestock, horses, or heavy cargo could be loaded and then towed to the shoreline. This method of off loading was found effective and continued even after the jetty had been constructed. Between 1904 and 1906, 11,065 horses were landed this way, and by the outbreak of the Great War 31,000 horses and 34,000 mules had been moved through the port of Swakopmund.

 

The Mole: The need for more suitable method of off-loading ships at Swakopmundwas cause for much discussion. Some favoured the construction of a jetty while traditionalists contended that a harbour should be built at Swakopmund, and in 1898 FW Ortloff, an architect by appointment of the Government, landed at Swakopmund to oversee the construction of an artificial harbour basin. A suitable stone deposit for quarrying was found nearby, and a small rail line along which to move the loads, and a water pipe had to be constructed before the massive concrete blocks could be made. These weighed in at over three hundred kilograms each.

 

On 2nd September 1899 the first of these blocks was laid at the site where the Mole was to be constructed. A point near to where Kurt von Francois had previously placed his beacons near the high dune at Swakopmund.  The concrete and stone pier was to extended 375 m into the sea and the cross leg at the end of the pier was 35 m in length, and the project cost over 2.5 million Reich's Marks.

 

Swakopmund Mole Inauguration Celebrations 12 February 1903

Inauguration day 1903

Settlers coming ashore in surf boats

Surf-boats of settlers

Visit to Swakopmund of Prince Leopold of Bavaria

Prince Leopold of Bavaria

The Customs Warehouse at the Mole. Now Swakopmund Museum

The old Lighthouse and Customs Shed from the Mole

 

The Swakopmund Mole Harbour was officially opened by Governor Friedrich von Lindequist on 12 Feb 1903 and was the cause for great celebrations. A set of rail tracks on which ran three steam cranes ran the length of the Mole. Tugs would tow the rafts into the safety of the harbour basin where protected from the high surf the loads could be lifted by crane to safety.

 

A lesson from the sea was awaiting.  The south to north drifting of the Benguela current caused major silting along the south side of the breakwater and then extended out to sea. A sandbank formed and the entrance into the basin began to silt up and by July 1904 the tugs and rafts could only enter the harbour at high tide.

 

The Herero uprising of January 1904 helped to exacerbate the problem, for the extra military supplies that were needed increased shipping to where at times up to twenty vessels would be laid at anchor in the Swakopmund 'roadway' awaiting offloading. The port authorities were working  24/7 in an attempt to alleviate the situation and the available dredging equipment proved to be inadequate. It was decided that a landing jetty should be built on the South side of the Mole. Within a year landing service at the Mole were suspended in favour of the newly built wooden jetty.

 

The original Beacon at the Mole was soon washed away by heavy seas

The Mole light beacon

Sailors being 'craned' from surf boats 1903

Sailors coming ashore

The Mole harbour silted-up 1904

Silting of the Mole

A raft beached at the Mole

Barge beached at the Mole and Harbour

 

Today, The Mole with its sheltered beach, surrounding parks, palmed walk ways, hotels, shops, restaurants, swimming pool and museum is one of the focal points and attractions of Swakopmund.

 

Children playing safely in the sheltered area of the Mole while Spring Tide South Atlantic Rollers thunder past

A sheltered beach

Swakopmund's Mole and Palm beach area.

 

Acknowledgements and further reading: A1, H5, H8, H11, M3, P2

 

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