Swakopmund is a city on the Atlantic coast of northwestern Namibia, 175 miles west of Windhoek, Namibia’s capital. It’s the capital of the Erongo administrative district. Being seaside the weather is cooler here so much of the Namibian government moves here from Windhoek in December and January.
The city was founded in 1892 two years after Windhoek. It was intended to be the main harbor of the then German South-West Africa. Increased traffic between Germany and its colony necessitated having a port. The only ideal site for a port on the entire west coast of Namibia is at Walvis Bay located 33 kilometers south, but that was in British possession. So the Germans decided to develop Swakopmund as their own choice.
On 4 August 1892 the crew of a gunboat named Hyane erected two beacons on a large dune, probably in the vicinity of the present lighthouse. This is regarded as the founding date of Swakopmund. The first settlers were 120 Schutztruppe with equipment and 40 settlers who offloaded from the Marie Woermann using four landing boats. The settlers had to build caves on the beach to protect themselves against hostile weather. Before a breakwater was built in 1898, which later became known as the Mole, all offloading was done with special boats that could only be handled by Kroo men from Liberia. At that time, up to 600 Kroo tribesmen were employed by the Woermann Line.
Swakopmund quickly became the main port for imports and exports for the whole territory, and was one of six towns which received municipal status in 1909.
Soon, the harbor created by the Mole silted up, and in 1905 work was started on a wooden jetty, but in the long run this was inadequate. In 1914 construction of an iron jetty began, the remains of which can still be seen today. After World War I it became a pedestrian walkway.
After German South-West Africa was taken over by the Union of South Africa in 1915, all harbor activities were transferred from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay, and there they have remained to the present day. The transfer at the time was devastating to the city as most government services ceased. Businesses closed down, the number of inhabitants diminished, and the town became less prosperous. However, that was reversed dramatically starting in the 1990s as the city was turned into a popular holiday resort. Today tourism-related services form the principal part of the town’s economy.
The discovery of uranium at Rassing, 43 miles outside the town in the early 2000s, led to the development of the world’s largest opencast uranium mine. This has had an enormous impact on all facets of life in Swakopmund which necessitated expansion of the infrastructure of the town to make it into one of the most modern in Namibia.