Cannons dumped into a lake
When you drive along the B1 from Tsumeb to the Von Lindequist gate into Etosha, the turn-off to Lake Otjikoto is so inconspicuous that few people pay it any attention. But an important chapter in Namibia’s history played out here and brought Germany’s nearly 30-year rule in South-West Africa to a close.
Near the start of WWI, generals Smuts and Botha landed in Swakopmund with South African troops. They invaded the interior in four campaigns and cornered the Schutztruppe in the north, where they were cut off from the coast. On 1 July 1915, the South Africans defeated the Germans. Eight days later, general Louis Botha, major Victor Franke and other senior officers signed the Khorab peace treaty – there’s a small monument at the 500 km marker on the railway line near Otavi to commemorate this day.
The Germans went down with a bang. They dumped their cannons into Lake Otjikoto north-west of Tsumeb so the South Africans wouldn’t get their hands on them. In the early 1980s, divers brought some of the guns back to the surface. This was no easy feat: The lake is 60 m deep on average and connected to an underground cave system that goes deeper than 145 m in places. Visit the lake (entrance fee R30 per person) and sit on the banks. Think about what you know (and don’t know!) about its murky depths. The turn-off from the B1 is about 20 km north of Tsumeb towards Oshivelo (GPS: S19.19443 E17.55076).
The cannons and other artillery retrieved from the lake are now kept in the Tsumeb Museum, but there are still about 19 guns remaining in the water. Plus, legend has it, a safe with unknown contents…
The museum also houses other items used by the German and South African armies and prisoners of war, and features ethnological exhibitions about the different people of Namibia. There’s also a fascinating display of crystals (all mined in the De Wet shaft) and info about the railway line built between Swakopmund and Tsumeb in the early 20th century.
Where? The museum is in President Street – look for the black steam locomotive in the garden. Opening times: Monday to Friday from 9 am to noon and from 2 pm to 5 pm; Saturday from 9 am to noon. Cost: R30 per adult; R5 per child aged 6 – 13. Contact: 00 264 67 220 425; email@example.com