Skeleton Coast – The Graveyard of Ships. Namibia

The darkest place on earth: The Skeleton Coast, the graveyard of lost ships, whales and planes.

Somewhere on the southwest coast of the African continent, along the shores of the Atlantic, there is a mystical place whose mysteries and secrets have been stirring the minds of many people for centuries.

Portuguese sailors in the Middle Ages nicknamed these places as “Gates to Hell”, and the locals – Bushmen, call these places “Land created by God in anger” and “Coast, where people and ships come to die.

The name of this bleak place is called the Skeleton Coast. A lifeless stretch of the Namib Desert, jutting directly into the raging Atlantic Ocean.

The length of this mysterious and mysterious piece of land in Namibia is just over 1000 km and stretches from the river Swakop near Walvis Bay to the river Kuene, on the border with Angola.

It is also a place where for hundreds of years, wrecked a great many ships and their remains are still resting in the lifeless sands.

It is no exaggeration to say that it is difficult to find another similar place on the planet, so rarely visited by people and so unfriendly to all life.

But the Coast of Skeletons didn’t get its ominous name by accident. This piece of desert, which occupies a huge part of the ocean coast, is indeed strewn with numerous skeletons.

For a long time mariners had a bad reputation for this part of the ocean, attributing all sorts of mystical explanations to numerous shipwrecks.

But there is no mysticism or mystery in shipwrecks.

The fact is that from the southern latitudes of the Atlantic the cold Antarctic Benguela Current comes here.

Not only do the cold waters of the current form the most powerful coastal surf, but the cooled ocean air collides here with the winds, carrying on the contrary their red-hot forty-degree air from the Namib desert toward the ocean.

As a result of the collision of cold and hot currents, very low and dense fogs, hundreds of kilometers long, form along the coastline.

Ships in such conditions become disoriented and stranded in poor visibility, as was the case, for example, with the steamer Eduard Bohlen in 1909.

The Eduard Bohlen was beached, the engine was sucked into the sand and the ship found its last resting place in the Namib Desert, although the crew and the passengers managed to escape because the nearest village was a few dozen kilometers away.

But it was hard to envy the poor survivors of the shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast. Ahead of them stretched hundreds of kilometers of lifeless desert, without water, without oases, without villages, and behind them was the boundless ocean. Many of such “lucky” people died before they could wait for help and get out of these unfriendly places.

But there were more horrible stories: people sailed on boats to the shore, abandoned a ship that ran aground, and due to the strongest surf could not get back to the ship. Such poor people also had an unenviable fate.

Also about these places was written the famous book by John Henry Marsh – Skeleton Coast, about the sinking of the ship Dunedin Star. The remains of this ship, by the way, were also found, but more about that later.

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I wanted to get here for a long time. All the more so, since little has changed here over the past centuries. The mystery and mysticism has disappeared, but civilization in this “godforsaken” place on the planet has not appeared. The same complete absence of people and villages for hundreds of kilometers, the same merciless scorching sun, the lack of water and fantastic beauty landscapes Skeleton Coast, and still the thirst for adventure. Parts of wrecks.

To get here you will have to try a lot. At first you will need to get to the capital of Namibia – Windhoek, and it is no less than about 13-15 hours flight from Moscow. Then rent an SUV and after a few hundred kilometers to be on the coast Walvis Bay. This will be the last bastion of whichever civilization, further people will be with each kilometer – less and less.

Skeleton Coast is now a huge national park stretching for about 1000 kilometers in length and 100-150 kilometers wide. The park is divided into two parts – a southern tourist area and a northern closed area.

It is only possible to enter the national park through two gates: from the south, the Ugab Gate, and from the east, the Springbokwasser Gate.

There are several parking lots for hikers and even cell phone service in the tourist part, but it is only 150 kilometers and ends this part of the park at Terrace Bay.

But the remaining 350 kilometers of the closed northern part of the park to the border with Angola are inaccessible to travelers without special permission and accompaniment by licensed guides.

The cost of such an escort can go up to several thousand dollars per person, but it is a justifiable price, considering that really lifeless and perilous for humans places.

There are no roads here, only a marked trail from the previous expedition, no communication, and there is absolutely nowhere to wait for help if trouble happens.

And also there are huge dunes, desert elephants, rhinos and desert lions – very encouraging company if you have to get out of here on foot.

But despite all this, dozens of adventurers from all over the world come here.

To see with their own eyes the remains of ships, tractors, bulldozers and even airplanes. And also to see those same skeletons, thanks to which this coast and got its ominous name.

And besides that, there is something else that attracts people here. It is diamonds. Partly because of the presence of diamond deposits, free passage is forbidden to many parts of Namib and the Skeleton Coast.

I managed to visit the open part of the Skeleton Coast and the lifeless depths of these dangerous places all the way to Cape Fria, which is 70 kilometers away from Angola. Fantastic places.

But all the while driving my rented Toyota Hilux 2.4 MT off-road camper-camper from Terrace Bay to Cape Fria and further east toward the Kaokaland region, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of inner unease.

Something about the aura in these places is not right. Maybe the negative energy from hundreds of crashed ships and dead sailors, maybe something else. But it is worth to visit this place of our planet, if you are an adventurer!

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This article is very cool! Thank you very much! And a sea of respect to you! By the way, it turns out that so many animals live there! And they also need to eat and drink something! So they somehow find something to drink and something to eat … So it’s not so bad there … That’s me, “figuratively”.

Bravo! Incredible tour)!

Ready to shoot a mystical movie.

Now, in the age of satellite navigation and communication to scare the world with the lack of communication =) Elon Musk even put high-speed internet there =)

To begin with, you have to be aware of the current satellite internet technology. Starlink (the SpaceX satellite system) is just in the process of deploying a satellite constellation. Commercial access to the Internet via this system is not available right now. Only the first phase of testing in the U.S. began a couple of months ago. Only 954 satellites out of nearly 12,000 have been launched. Can you feel the volume of work?

Yes, you can get internet access via an Inmarsat or Iridium satellite terminal almost anywhere in the world now, but I’m afraid the price of such a terminal will upset you. For example the IridiumGO terminal costs a measly $2k per minute voucher for 1000 minutes of voice or internet for only 800 bucks. I.e. 16 hours of connection will cost 800 bucks. Think of it as Dial-UP. And do you know what your speed will be? 2.4 kbps at most :-)

We use it on arctic trips in Russia. Here’s the only thing, the equipment costs some measly $ 35,000 There is also Inmarsat, but it is as fun as the Iridium. So, yes, there is no communication on the skeleton coast in Namibia. And travelers usually travel there with satellite phones.

There was talk here for the lack of communication per se. Exaggerating the danger of the situation. Twenty years old technology, if not older, is sufficient for an emergency distress signal with GPS coordinates. A rescue helicopter in the nearest town or the local military probably has one. Starlink has already been added for laughs.

I love it when amateur theorists start telling me such curious stories. How often do you use satellite phones, satellite GPS – trackers in a year? I’m sure much less often than I do :-)

Even if we’re talking about a pauper ancient Iridium 9555 with a $1.2-1.5k price tag and plus a 12 month SIM card for a measly 600 minutes for $600-700. I can see a line lined up here wanting to pay $1,800 for this set all at once and another $600 each year.

Few people will buy such a voucher for one trip for a couple of weeks. Simply because it’s the stupidest waste of money if you don’t need the satellite for work. You won’t spend those 600 minutes and it will “burn out” on you.

Moving on, about helicopters. How many times have you been to South Africa?

It won’t be a rescue helicopter, it will be a ranger and after that you will be sent to familiarize yourself with the local penal code. And if you’re unlucky enough to go to the Orange River, you’ll be shot and killed, so they’ll deal with it.

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And knowing all this information, you went there with your children? Indeed, the levity of some people knows no boundaries … but come on, who am I to judge =)

You are making funny judgments again sitting on your cozy couch. Some people’s greatest danger is not drowning in a bowl of New Year’s Eve olive oil, and some people’s greatest danger is watching a predator from arm’s length in the wilderness. But the biggest delusion – when the first are trying to assess the experience of the latter from their “bell tower” :-) Good luck

You call only a CONVICTION, do not waste your nerves on the answers to such comrades

To begin with, you have to be aware of the current satellite internet technology. Starlink (the SpaceX satellite system) is just in the process of deploying a satellite constellation. Commercial access to the Internet via this system is not available right now. Only the first phase of testing in the U.S. began a couple of months ago. Only 954 satellites out of nearly 12,000 have been launched. Can you feel the volume of work?

Yes, you can get internet access via an Inmarsat or Iridium satellite terminal almost anywhere in the world now, but I’m afraid the price of such a terminal will upset you. For example the IridiumGO terminal costs a measly $2k per minute voucher for 1000 minutes of voice or internet for only 800 bucks. I.e. 16 hours of connection will cost 800 bucks. Think of it as Dial-UP. And do you know what your speed will be? 2.4 kbps at most :-)

We use it on arctic trips in Russia. Here’s the only thing, the equipment costs some measly $ 35,000 There is also Inmarsat, but it is as fun as the Iridium. So, yes, there is no communication on the skeleton coast in Namibia. And travelers usually travel there with satellite phones.

Sofa experts still won’t understand such a reasoned response from a professional of his craft, but it was a pleasure to read both the article and the responses to the comments)

Skeleton Coast. Namibia

The Skeleton Coast is a vast expanse of Atlantic coastline in Namibia, where the Namib Desert meets the ocean. The Namibian government has declared this area a National Park of the same name.

The Park and the Skeleton Coast are not exactly the same thing. In fact, the entire coast of Namibia can be considered the Skeleton Coast. Its northern end is the National Park, which begins 200 kilometers north of the city of Swakopmund, near the Ugab River estuary and ends at the Cunene River, right on the border with Angola. This is about 500 kilometers of coastline. By the way, the entire coast of Namibia is a set of national parks. They are so vast that they practically merge into one protected area.

The Namibian coast.

Skeleton Coast on the map

  • Geographical coordinates are -21.172700, 13.669542
  • The distance from Namibia’s capital city Windhoek is about 500 km in a straight line
  • The nearest airport is Swakopmund about 200 km
  • It’s worth clarifying that these distances are approximate, as the Skeleton Coast is hundreds of kilometers of amazing but frightening scenery. Our starting point is the entrance to Skeleton Coast National Park (Ugab gate).

This unfriendly Namibian landmark gets its name from the fact that ships have often been wrecked here. Their remains can still be found on the coast, and some even at a considerable distance from the shore.

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For example, the German ship Eduard Bohlen is about 500 meters from the coast. Its coordinates are -23.995884, 14.457471. It rests 10 km south of Conception Bay and 150 km south of Swakopmund (formally located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park).

History of the ship Edward Bolen

Question: How could the ship sail into the desert? Answer: no way, it was the desert that took over the ship. So, on September 5, 1909, the steamship Edward Bolen, loaded with equipment for the diamond mines, was making a routine voyage from Swakopmund to Table Bay, Cape Town, not far from the Cape of Good Hope. But in Concepcion Bay she was caught in thick fog and ran aground.

Attempts to bring the ship off the shoal were unsuccessful. And the ship was not small – the length was 95 meters and the displacement was 2272 tons. A team of 30 people went ashore.

In a few days, the desert had piled so much sand around the ship that it was safe to walk around it at low tide. With each passing day, the chances of salvaging the ship were greatly diminished. Not only did the desert take the ship in its sandy captivity, but it gradually reclaimed half a kilometer of space from the ocean.

Steamboat Edward Bolen on the Skeleton Coast

The place where the desert takes over the ocean and leaves skeletons

A feature of the Skeleton Coast is the fact that, year after year, the desert encroaches on the Atlantic and the coastline shifts westward little by little. That is why, after so many years, the Eduard Bolen is so far from the coast.

Unfortunately, the German steamer is not the only ship stranded forever on the Skeleton Coast. The large number of accidents and the corresponding notoriety of these places is due to the peculiarities of local natural phenomena and factors.

The Skeleton Coast is part of the nearly lifeless Nimib Desert on the border with the Atlantic Ocean.

Nearby, the cold Benguela Current flows from south to north. Hot air masses flow from the desert side. As a result, there is a large temperature difference, from +6 to +36 degrees. This causes the appearance of fogs.

In addition, the force of the surf here is such that it is almost unreal to get from the shore to the ship on an ordinary boat with oars. For this reason, many sailors whose ships got stuck off the coast were able to disembark easily, but were unable to make it back.

They were doomed to an agonizing death in the vastness of the desert, far from settlements and fresh water. So we can consider that the Coast of Skeletons got its name also for this reason.

Skeleton Coast

In general, the Skeleton Coast first appeared as the title of a book by John Henry Marsh about the sinking of the British freighter Dunedin Star in November 1942. The book was published in 1944 and became very famous. Since then, the name has been firmly established and is still used in the world today. But before that, the locals called the coast “the land made by God in wrath” and the Portuguese sailors “the gates of hell”. We must assume that at all times the coast was a dark place.

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Nature of the Coast of Skeletons.

The bleak and, in some places, frightening shores are covered with sand dunes, canyons, and low rocky ridges. Despite the harsh conditions, the Coast of Skeletons is inhabited by several species of animals and plants. Of the flora can be found “elephant’s foot” growing in the crevices of the rocks, succulents and lithopedion, more like stones, blooming with small beautiful flowers, as well as velvicia and viola.

The animal world, oddly enough, is quite diverse. There is even an endemic species of beetle, which has adapted to receive moisture condensing right on the surface of his body. Large animals can also be found. Hyenas and jackals, zebras and antelopes, ostriches, even elephants and rhinos, which can be seen on the territory of the National Park sometimes come to the coast. Well, the lion – the king of beasts – comes here occasionally.

Predators do not appear here by chance. They are attracted by the huge colonies of long-eared seals (also known as South African fur seals), which by the hundreds of thousands come to the coast in search of food, as the local waters are very rich in fish. Lions, hyenas, and jackals sometimes manage to fight off cubs or wounded animals from the herd and have a meal.

Despite the fact that there are many seal rookeries on the coast, the only place accessible to tourists is only at Cape Cross. The other places are restricted to visitors.

Seals on Skeleton Beach

As mentioned at the beginning, Skeleton Coast Park is commonly divided into two parts, North and South. Most of the coast is virtually inaccessible to tourists, such as the Northern part from Torre Bay to the border with Angola. The southern part is freely accessible to travelers, but only as part of a tourist group with a license. There are certain rules for visitors. In addition, it is forbidden to stay in the National Park overnight.

Entrance to Skeleton Coast National Park

There are not many tourists here. If you find yourself among them, you will have the opportunity to see not only the remains, sunk in the sands of the ships, but also to look at the corners of our planet, which appeared long before the dinosaurs.

Interesting facts about the Skeleton Coast

  • The Roaring Dunes can be found in the Park near the village of Terrace Bay. They, like the Singing Barkhan in Kazakhstan, at a certain set of circumstances emit loud sounds that can be heard from several kilometers away. You can even go snowboarding on these dunes.
  • The Skeleton Coast is considered one of the most ancient parts of the planet. The age of the rocks of the desert is estimated at one and a half billion years
  • A large number of fish attracts not only seals, but also fishermen. Sometimes their camps are so numerous that they resemble entire cities
  • Skeleton Coast National Park covers an area of 16,000 km2
  • Despite the cold Benguela Current and fog, temperatures here never drop below zero degrees Celsius.

Skeleton Coast in photos

Namibia's Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast Shipwreck

A shipwreck on the coast

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