Photographing The Ghost Town of Elizabeth Bay
Following on from my blog posts about Ghost Towns, this is the 5th town to appear on my blog since January 2019.
Though it often seems to be forgotten in the shadow of its ghost town counterpart Kolmanskop (see blog post here), Elizabeth Bay was another diamond mining town that we explored whilst in Namibia, back in February 2019. The ghost town is situated right on the Atlantic Ocean some twenty-five kilometres south of Lüderitz.
Elizabeth Bay boasted a huge amount of diamonds as they were washed up by the sea from the Orange River mouth further south. The Elizabeth Bay operation has seen three main phases of mining, the section that I have photographed here is the first.
The mine was originally built in 1911 but halted during WW1 and restarted sometime around 1915. However, it was only operational for around twenty years, closing in 1948 as the attention moved to the closer to the river mouth. There were additional interruptions in mining operations during the Great Depression and World War II, before the mine was finally closed.
This is despite some conflicting information on Wikipedia which seems to confuse this older mine with the newer construction that happened nearby in the 1990’s and continues till this day, albeit in a limited format.
As a result of the volume of diamonds in the region, German miners flooded the town building their own miniature Germany at Elizabeth Bay. A large entertainment hall including a casino were built in the area which overlooked the ocean. The town also housed machinery for desalting ocean water so that the town had a supply of fresh water as well as housing for the workers, or as it was back then slaves.
You can actually check out an photograph taken from the air of the site in around 1920 on this link here. It shows the houses in a semi-circle pattern, the same houses that I shot at the top of the blog and below.
We visited on an extremely hot and dry day in February, which was annoyingly made worse by a strong wind. This made the image capturing tough as not only were we subject to sunburn (even through the cream) we also had to face the sand striking our faces as we set up our gear.
Prior to visiting the area, we did a little investigation and found out that tours here can only be done with a guide who must pre-arrange permits for you to enter. So we got in touch with the team at Namib Offroad Excursions, who are the only permitted guides in this region and purchased a 1/2 day tour with a driver, permits, a 4x4 and lunch.
This trip was not cheap, £198 to be precise so we were expecting it to be decent and informative. However we were left feeling pretty disappointed as we returned to our lodge for the evening.
The guide was ok, but we felt very rushed and despite emailing in advance to explain I wanted to take photos and undertake some video recording, this information seemingly was never passed on to our guide (who it turned out was just filling in for the day).
The heat took its toll as well, but also it was the lack of being able to shoot in anything other than harsh light that was frustrating, although as you will see it works well on a couple of shots as it comes in the broken slats in the ceiling.
Our lunch was also poor, it consisted of some old biscuits from the glove box of the 4x4, some sardines and crackers plus some water - not exactly filling or satisfying hey?
The half day tour is not amazing, with a couple of hours also eaten up by travel time, I would consider this to be for someone on a larger budget. In hindsight, that is not what we had and I wished I put the money towards something else - like a flight over the shipwreck coast for instance.
For photography the area is quite unique, I just feel that it would require a little more time as well to explore it correctly. Also, shooting at sunrise would of course be better and not just for the heat but also to avoid those energetic desert winds.
TIPS BEFORE YOU GO
1. Take sunscreen (the highest factor you can possibly find), because you WILL burn and it WILL hurt (as I found out), also pair this with a sun hat or cap and possibly as well, a scarf to cover ones face.
2. Take Water, and lots of it. The heat and trudging through sand will soon have you worn out and dehydrated.
3. Shoot at sunrise if they will let you - This might be worth the question, I am sure though it would cost much more than the £198 we paid.
4. Wear high rise walking boots - you’re going to get a shoe full of sand if it is a lower shoe or trainer.
5. Keep your valuables and gear in a zip tight bag, sand is a nuisance and it always finds a way of getting into your bags and then on to your expensive camera gear.
6. Consider a trip to Pomona over this trip unless you can find the trip at a better price.
7. Smile, it's a once in a lifetime location! Enjoy Namibia.
Thank you for taking the time to join me in Elizabeth Bay.
Speak Soon, James.
I shot these images with the following gear: (please be aware that these are affiliate links , by using them, if you purchase equipment or goods it costs you nothing more but I do receive a little kick back which supports me and my work).
Two Lenses used for these images:
And my NEW gimbal: