| Entry 13 of 41
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Ailsa was rather hot and lethargic when we went to dinner last night at 2000hrs. I thought to myself, surely she can’t come down with Erin’s bug twice? Anyway she hardly touched her food and after my main course I decided it would be best to take her to our cabin and put her to bed. We would all need an early night as breakfast on the 29th started early at 0700hrs on account of our arrival in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
It is recorded that Bartholomeu Diaz reached Walvis Bay, Namibia, on the 8th December 1487. However it was not until 1793 that a European power, the Dutch, took possession of Walvis Bay, making it part of the Cape Colony. When the British occupied this colony in 1795 they also took possession of Walvis Bay. Cape Colony was returned to the Dutch in 1803 only to be occupied again in 1806. The Cape Colony was ceded to the British as part of the post war settlement (Napoleonic Wars) in 1816.
The scramble for Africa in the late 19th century led to renewed European interest in hitherto unoccupied parts of this great continent. Britain, which had taken no active interest in the governance of Namibia, annexed an enclave around Walvis Bay in 1878, fearing German interference in the area. This came when Adolf Luderitz established a town, which bears his name to this day, in 1883, south of Walvis Bay.
“Referring to the south-west, of course there is a great region with regard to which there has been considerable controversy —namely, Namaqualand and Damaraland, which some years ago had fallen into the hands of Germany, owing to indisposition on the part of the Imperial and Cape Governments to assume the responsibility. I am by no means imputing blame to those who did not assume this extended responsibility, but at all events Germany acquired the protectorate over those regions. I venture to say that the contention that the Cape Government has a vested right to all the country south of the Zambesi is one which cannot be maintained, and I do not think that it is possible for this country to maintain it and be on good terms with other nations.”
The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs – Sir J Fergusson – Second Reading, Anglo-German Agreement Bill – 24th July 1890
Count von Caprivi was instrumental in charting a ‘new course’ in Anglo-German relations, having recently taken over as Chancellor of Germany, from Otto von Bismarck. In a grand colonial swap, Britain gave Heligoland to Germany, whilst receiving Zanzibar in return. The Anglo-German agreement of 1890 officially also outlined imperial spheres of influence in Africa. Last year we travelled along the Caprivi Strip, a narrow corridor of land, which links Namibia to the Zambezi River on the Zambian border. This was all agreed in 1890, giving recognition to German East Africa and German South-West Africa.
Walvis Bay was incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910, however the exact border between the Germans and South Africans was disputed. Further negotiations with Britain ensued and the Walvis Bay territory was agreed at 697 square miles. I recall last year seeing boundary markers in the museum in Swakopmund. The boundary didn’t last for long as Union forces occupied German South-West Africa in 1915 during WW1. Following the Great War, the League of Nations gave a mandate to South Africa to administer the former German colony.
“In 1922 the area was placed under the administration of the South West African Administration. This remained the status quo for more than 50 years. On 31 August 1977, the territory’s administration was once again transferred to the Cape Province in an apparent attempt to avoid losing Walvis Bay to a possibly hostile SWAPO-led government. The South African government re-imposed direct rule and reasserted its claim to sovereignty based on the original British annexation. The United Nations strongly condemned this move and its Resolution 435 of July 1978 called for the reintegration of Walvis Bay into Namibia.
Even when Namibia became independent on 21 March 1990, South Africa refused to relinquish control over the area. Only after increased international and local pressure, Walvis Bay and a string of off-shore islands were finally reintegrated into Namibia at midnight on 28 February 1994.”
Why would South Africa try to hold onto the Walvis Bay enclave? In short, the abundance of diamonds and Uranium in the nearby hills. Today the area also attracts tourists, although mostly to the German town of Swakopmund, which is only about 20 miles away and is highly recommended. The seaside is a welcome relief from the desert terrain and unbearable heat of central Namibia.
I awoke this morning at 0630hrs and checked Ailsa. Her temperature was normal, however part of her face was covered in blotchy spots. When I woke her she appeared fine but was most distressed when she looked in the mirror. What was the cause of these spots? Who knows? She has already had chicken pox. Could it be some sort of heat rash? A spoonful of Piriton syrup was administered from our extensive medical chest. Since she appears well apart from the spots we shall await developments. If she goes downhill we shall consult the ship’s Surgeon, Dr R Kaul.
We had breakfast at 0730hrs and I felt most invigorated after my breakfast fish and RMS fry. Even Ailsa ate a substantial breakfast. We returned to our cabin and packed a day sack for our trip to Swakopmund. We disembarked from the RMS St Helena around 1000hrs and boarded a fleet of minibuses, which drove us out of the docks, across Walvis Bay and onto the road for Swakopmund. It is only a 20 mile drive, with the sea on one side and the desert, with its impressive dunes, on the other. We were deposited in a car park overlooking the craft market near the lighthouse.
We knew the layout of central Swakopmund quite well, having spent a few nights here just last August. First plan of action was to visit an internet cafe and upload some journal entries. The V & A Waterfront in Cape Town seemed a lifetime ago! Then we visited the Hansa Hotel, the scene of some very happy memories from last year, and purchased some postcards and stamps. Ruth purchased shoes for Erin from Edgars Department Store across from the Hansa. With all the important administration done we could concentrate of seeing the sights of Swakopmund.
By way of background information I relate the following, which I discovered during a visit to the Swakopmund Museum in August 2008:
Lieutenant Edmund Troost arrived in Walvis Bay in 1896 with a steam tractor (traction engine) bound for Swakopmund. It took him three months to get there on account of the engine constantly getting bogged down in sand. The distance between the two settlements is less than 25 miles. Once he got there the ‘road locomotive’ started hauling supplies to Nonidas and Heigamchab as intended. Unfortunately in 1897 the engine broke down for good due to poor servicing and lack of spares. It stands about two miles from the centre of Swakopmund at the side of the main road to Windhoek. Today the traction engine is called the Martin Luther, after a quote from the famous German Theologian, who stated, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”
Last year we passed the Martin Luther ‘road locomotive’ whilst travelling from Swakopmund to Windhoek. I vowed I would return, so this was first order of business. I engaged the dodgiest taxi driver in Swakopmund and we proceeded out of town to visit the traction engine. It is located on the main B2 road in a glass fronted shed. It was restored a number of years back after at least sixty years rusting in the desert. I believe it is located in the original position it broke down in 1897. This is all part of the charm. I thought it was only in the United States of America that history could be made out of nothing! The ‘museum’ is free, although donations are welcome. As we got out of the taxi a busker inside the museum started playing music. We gave him a tip for trying and left a donation with the attendant, in admiration of Lt Troost in 1896/97 and the recent preservation activity.
After this we returned to town (Swakopmund) where the driver tried to renegotiate his fare. He had no success and forfeited his tip in the process. Perhaps if his vehicle had been roadworthy I would have been more inclined to listen to his appeals. We gave him the agreed rate and walked away.
We made our way to Palm Beach, near the Mole. Of course to get there the children had to negotiate the craft market. I chose to take photographs of the local German memorials, the Presidential Summer Residence (from where I got chased last year) etc, while Ruth and the children negotiated with stall holders. In truth all their wares appears mass produced these days. The bargains are not the same as when we visited Rhodesia/Zimbabwe back in 99.
Once on the beach the children played in the surf. This could have been Fraserburgh beach in the 1970’s. Give them sand, water, a paddling pool (for under eight years) and a playground and they are perfectly happy. Strange that we have to come to German West Africa to recreate my childhood! Perhaps slightly different in that I cannot recall African beggars annoying Europeans in the North-East of Scotland.
On the way back to the town centre we stopped for ice-cream next to the Swakopmund Musuem and bought some more soft drinks at Pick n Pay. I forgot that beer is more expensive in Namibia than South Africa so we did not buy anymore supplies for the boat. We returned to our transport at 1445hrs, near the Woermann Tower, then back to Walvis Bay. We were back onboard the RMS St Helena by 1530hrs, just in time for afternoon tea.
We were rather hungry after missing lunch so we started in the Main Lounge and then proceeded to the Sun Lounge. We felt better after two servings of afternoon tea! Time to relax and read a few more chapters of ‘A Merchant Fleet in War,” and meet some of the new passengers who had embarked at Walvis Bay. Ten passengers left this morning and I believe thirty-seven arrived this afternoon. There was an Oyster & Champagne reception in the Sun Lounge at 1700hrs, just after lifeboat drill. There are a number of young children on the ship so hopefully Erin & Ailsa will make some new friends en route to Jamestown, St Helena.
| Entry 13 of 41
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