Ever-Changing Sandwich Harbour

In our last blogpost we introduced you to the many sides of New Zealand's Mount Taranaki.

This week, we are staying in the Southern hemisphere, but shift our attention to the African continent, to Namibia's Sandwich Harbour.


Sandwich Harbour is located on the Namibian Atlantic coast, about 50km south of the port town of Walvis. The harbour was founded in the 15th century and came to importance in the 19th century as a commercial port for whaling and fishing. Today, little more than cattle bones, shells and the wooden beams of a former abattoir remain.

Sandwich harbour consists of a bay in the north and a lagoon in the south. The lagoon used to be accessible by ship up until the late 19th century. Today, however, after silting up, it is completely surrounded by sand and reeds.


Sandwich harbour was used by Portuguese sailors as early as 1486, although the importance of the harbour back then remains unclear. However, what is certain is that the harbour gained importance as a commercial port during the 19th century. It was developed during the years of German colonialism in Namibia and served as a port for whalers and fishers. There was some industry located in Sandwich Harbour, and the port served as a local centre of trade. The area even used to house an abattoir. Cattle used to be herded across the surrounding Namib desert to Sandwich Harbour to be processed into canned beef and then exported from the port. However, with the increased development of Swakopmund as the major supply port of the German administration in the area, the importance Sandwich Harbour decreased abruptly. Only a few cow bones, as well as the wooden remains of the abattoir tell the story of the port of Sandwich Harbour.


Although the heydays of the commercial port of Sandwich Harbour are long gone, the importance to the natural ecosystem of the bay and the lagoon remains unchanged. Specifically, fresh water seeping from the sand dunes on the northern end of the bay makes Sandwich Harbour one of the rare places with a source of drinkable water in the Namib desert, which stretches the entire length of the Namibian coast (about 2,000km) and completely surrounds the harbour. Because of this fresh water source, Sandwich Harbour attracts 10,000’s of birds every year, such as pelicans and flamingos, on their migratory routes along the African Atlantic coast. Besides birds, the area also provides a habitat for land animals, such as hyenas and jackals, as well as sea animals, like dolphins.

(The Namib desert covers the entirety of the Namibian Atlantic coast. (c) eoVision www.eovision.at )


It is not entirely clear how Sandwich Harbour got its name. Different theories exist on why the bay and lagoon are today referred to as Sandwich Harbour. The name could be derived from the German word “Sandfisch” (sand fish or sand shark), a type of shark often found in the area (between 1884 until 1915 Namibia was part of the German colony German South West Africa). Another, more likely, theory is that the harbour is named after the British ship HMS Sandwich, which visited the bay in the late 18th century. It is believed that the ship’s captain created the first map of the coastline.


Sandwich Harbour has interesting stories to tell about its past as a commercial port. It is also a paradise for birds on their migration along the coast of Namibia. Besides this, what even further increases the unique character of Sandwich Harbour is its remoteness. Surrounded by miles and miles of sand that make up the Namib, engulfed by towering dunes that make the harbour virtually inaccessible from inland, it is only at a very short time window at low tide that the lagoon of Sandwich Harbour is accessible from the coast. As part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, visiting the lagoon is only possible when accompanied by a guide. Despite these difficulties of reaching Sandwich Harbour, visitors will be rewarded with a unique sight of contrasting sand dunes and ocean waves, as well as incredible wildlife.

(the bay is only accessible at low tide. Thanks for the picture to "Elena Travel Services Namibia" www.namibweb.com)


Sandwich Harbour is a unique feature on Namibia’s Atlantic coast. It is not only an impressive sight from the ground, but also from above. A big feature of our motif are its colours. On the one side, there is this great contrast between the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean and the white sands of the Namib desert. But then there is also another dimension, the many different shades of blue visible in the lagoon. Sanding-up means that the southern part of Sandwich Harbour is characterised by varying levels of depth. What makes the view of this lagoon even more special is the fact that it is considered one of the most geomorphological active in the Namib, meaning the landscape is constantly shifting and changing due to winds and strong currents. As a result, the view of Sandwich Harbour on any single day will never be the same on the next, and similarly, any satellite image taken of it is unique.

(Sanding-up of the lagoon is creating various shades of blue on the satellite image. Photo by Martin Cígler)

We hope you enjoyed the second post in our series. If you are as amazed by the unique beauty of Sandwich Harbour as us, consider taking a look at our store. You can find the motif of Sandwich Harbour along all our other images there!


Satellite Motif "Sandwich Harbour, Namibia", (c) eoVision / DigitalGlobe

Info Namibia - http://www.info-namibia.com

Namibweb.com - http://www.namibweb.com/sandwichharbour.htm

Travel News Namibia - http://www.travelnewsnamibia.com/featured-stories/a-sandwich-harbour-feast/

#motif #satelliteimage #africa #namibia #namib #desert #SandwichHarbour #Atlantic

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