Adolf Lüderitz had little pleasure with his estate. The expected mineral resources - copper, gold and silver - were nowhere to be found. Drilling for water turned out to be fruitless. Therefore, drinking water had to be brought in by ship all the way from Cape Town. Finally, all financial means were exhausted and Lüderitz had to sell his little empire to the 'German Colonial Society'. During an expedition in 1886, Adolf Lüderitz drowned in the Oranje river.
In the early years, the dreary place of Lüderitz grew very hesitantly. There were no more than a few wooden huts and corrugated iron dwellings. However, when diamonds were found near Lüderitz in 1908, hectic building activities suddenly began. The town's wonderful colonial houses date back to this time.
Top: The "Goerke Haus", impressive example of the colonial houses in Luederitz. Left: Adolf Lüderitz (Cape Archives, KGH).
The bay of Luederitz was discovered in 1488 by the Portuguese seafarer Bartholomeu Diaz. He called it Angra Pequeña. Centuries later, in 1883, Adolf Lüderitz, a merchant from Bremen, acquired the bay from the Nama-chief Joseph Fredericks from Bethanie. The selling price amounted to 10,000 German Marks and 260 rifles. Included in the price was the area within a 20-mile radius around the bay. Only after this treaty was sealed, did the Nama-chief realize, that not the usual English landmiles (1 mile = 1.8 kilometres) were meant, but the old German 'geographical mile' (1 mile = 7.5 km). Due to this 'mile fraud', Fredericks lost his entire tribal property.
In 1884, the German empire took over the protection of the Lüderitz' estates. A small corps of the imperial navy landed in the bay and raised the German flag. The foundation stone for the colony of German South West Africa was laid.