The rough Atlantic coast in the north-west of South Africa is not the place for pleasant swimming, because the water is, due to the Benguela current, very cold. The small harbour town of Port Nolloth, frequently covered in dense sea fogs, gives a sleepy and laid-back impression.
However, on the boats that anchor in the shallow waters near the coast, activity prevails. People are looking for diamonds. Powerful pumps on board of the boats suck the sand up from the bottom of the sea, let it run through a shaking-machine and filter the diamonds out. To this day, a licence to prospect diamonds is still a lucrative business.
The diamond resources here are considered a secondary deposit. The precious stones were carried by the Orange River from the Kimberley area into the sea and spread out along the coast by the current and the waves.
Top right: Diamond searching boats. Sea fog in the background. Bottom: The magistrate court, covered in the typical sea fog.
Port Nolloth was founded in 1854. The government of the Cape sent Captain M.S. Nolloth to survey the Namaqualand coast and to look for possible sites for a new harbour to serve the copper mines in the Springbok region. His recommendation fell upon Robbebaai. In 1855 the Governor of the Cape renamed the town "Port Nolloth" in honour of Commander Nolloth. Soon the copper was brought to the coast along a 96-mile long narrow gauge railway, drawn by mules. Within two years Port Nolloth flourished until, in the beginning of the 20th century, the copper transport was taken over by trucks. For a while fishing was the only industry in Port Nolloth. Later, the discovery of diamonds offshore added another dimension to Port Nolloth's economic livelihood.