The History of the Skeleton Coast
Skeleton Coast Namibia Tour

One of the best places to visit when you are on a Namibia tour is the haunting Skeleton Coast. This desolate place is unlike any other on Earth and your time here will stay with you forever.


Known as the world’s largest ship cemetery, the skeleton coast is a coastal stretch of land 40km wide and 500km long.  Although this area is extremely hostile, it is a very fascinating stretch of land.  Located in the north-west of Namibia, this is where the cold Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean meets the hot arid desert landscape. The area is known as the Skeleton Coast because of the many ship wrecks and also from the many whale carcasses that litter the coast.

Skeleton Coast Namibia Tour
Shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast

When in 1942 the Dunedin Star, a 530 foot long British liner either crashed or was taken down by a German U-boat, it took 26 days to try and rescue the passengers and crew.  This was due to the violent surf along the coast.  Its ghostly carcass can still be seen on the coast.  Many sailors have found themselves marooned on this coast and despite their effort to survive, the harsh climate and lack of water was the cause of their demise.  Human skeletons were found in the 1940’s, headless and lined in a row.  A slate was found in the area with a message that read “I am proceeding to a river 60 miles north and should anyone find this and follow me, God will help him.”  It is believed that the skeletons were remains of sailors from a ship wreck 80 years earlier.

Death is found everywhere on the skeleton coast, from whale vertebrae and seal bones to elephant ribs and turtle shells.  This is due to the rough seas, lack of water and extremely harsh climate.  Early Portuguese sailors referred to the coast as The Gates Of Hell and it was an area that the indigenous Bushmen described as The Land God Made in Anger.  Swedish explorer Charles J Anderson, after seeing the area supposedly said that death would be preferable to banishment to such a country.  This area is one of the most feared and scary places on earth.  Due to the terrible conditions and risks that come with the skeleton coast many shipping companies refuse to bring their boats close to the coast.  Fog conditions have resulted in several aircraft meeting their demise on the skeleton coast, leaving their pilots to join the unfortunate sailors that had their lives claimed by the haunted coast.  The atmospheric grey coastal fog, although other worldly in appearance, is a vital part of the ecosystem of the dry land. The reason for many ship wrecks and plane crashes also provides just enough moisture for the desert flora to survive.

Skeleton Coast Namibia Tours
The Skeleton Coast Landscape

Along with the animals that survive in this arid area, some 50 000 Himba people call this area home.  For protection from the blistering sun, the Himba people pound the Orche stone into small pieces.  These fragments are then mixed with butter over a fire and then applied to the skin.  Apart from giving the skin a slight reddish colour, it also helps to keep the skin clean and moist.