Aus Namibia Info - Source Wikipedia
Aus is a village in Karas Region in southern Namibia. It lies on a railway line and the B4 national road, 230 km west of Keetmanshoop and about 125 km east of Lüderitz. Trains from Keetmanshoop now terminate at the village but formerly continued on to Lüderitz. The village is small but has a number of amenities including a hotel, police station, shop and garage. It is located in the Aus Mountains above the plains of the Namib Desert.
The village was formerly the site of a prisoner-of-war camp established by the South African army in 1915 to house German inmates captured during the First World War. The inmates initially lived in tents but later built brick houses. The number of prisoners reached 1500 but by May 1919 the last inmates left and the camp closed. A plaque marks the site today and some of the houses have been reconstructed.
Geography and Climate
Aus - Namibia lies about 1.485 m above sea level 125 Kilometer east of the coastal town Lüderitz in the Namib desert. The village Aus lies at the edge of the Namibia Huib-Plateaus. It can get quite cold in winter time. Aus is one of the areas in Namibia, where it could snow (maybe once every 2-3 years).
Economy and Infastructure
Aus - Namibia liegt an der Nationalstraße B4 und der Lüderitzbahn von Lüderitz nach Keetmanshoop. The railway line from Seeheim to Lüderitz is 318 kilometres (198 mi) long. The connection between Lüderitz and Aus was completed in 1906, the extension to Seeheim was completed in 1908. Currently the service between Aus and Lüderitz is decommissioned, and there is no regular passenger service between Seeheim and Aus. A re-opening of the service from Aus to Lüderitz is planned for 2015.
The project was started in 2001 and by 2006 about 70km had been upgraded. At the end of November 2011 Namibian Sun reported that 70km of the 140km still had to be completed. Since then only another 40km have been completed. The mayor of Lüderitz, Susan Ndjaleka, remains positive about the completion and progress of the railway. According to her the town is in dire need of this development. “The town needs this railway and cannot afford to lose it now.” The slow pace with which the rehabilitation and upgrading of the railway line has been progressing over the past decade has hampered the development and expansion of the Port of Lüderitz, which might turn into an economic hub once completed.
Aus is a favorite stop-over point for tourists and has a Tourist Centre with information about activities in the area. Accommodation is offered by the traditional Bahnhof Hotel Aus, which also hosts a Restaurant and a Beergarden.
Culture and Sightseeing
Every year on the 27th of January Aus celebrates the Birthday of German King Wilhelm II.
East of Aus, one turns off the main road into a side road which leads to the prisoner of war camp. Visitors can also reach the site by driving eastwards through Aus and crossing the railway line which lies east of the town. A short distance from the turn-off to the historic site, there stands a sweet thorn Acacia (Acacia karoo).
The area west of Aus is noted for its herd of feral horses living in the desert. Their origin is uncertain but today there is a population of between 150 and 200 individuals which have adapted to the harsh environment. They urinate less than domestic horses and can go five days without water. They drink at an artificial water hole at Garub Pan where a blind has been erected to enable tourists to watch the animals without disturbing them.
Feral Horses von Aus - Garub
The Namib Desert Horse is a rare horse found in the Namib Desert, of Namibia, Africa. It is most likely the only feral herd of horses residing in Africa. Today, approximately 150 horses now live in 350 square kilometres of the Namib desert. The origin of these animals is unclear, though several theories have been put forward. Genetic tests have been performed, although none to date have completely verified their origin.
Horses are not native to Sub-Saharan Africa. The first horses in sub-Saharan Africa were brought by the Dutch to the area of the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century. There are several theories on how the Namib Desert Horse originated: One theory says that a ship with horses on board was run aground; the strongest horses were able to swim ashore to the mouth of the Orange River and up to the Garub Plains, where the modern herds live today.
There is also a theory that Namib Desert Horses are descendents of the horses of the German Schutztruppe brought in during the 19th century. Others say they are from Farm Duwisib (south of Maltahöhe), owned by Baron Hansheinrich von Wolf. Other sources suggest they came from imports in the 20th century, between 1904 and the beginning of World War I, when the Germans brought 30,000 horses into the area. Others suggest that some of these horses' forebears escaped from the South African cavalry during World War I. Research in the archives of pre-1914 horse breeding operations found at Windhoek, combined with blood typing studies suggests that the animals descended from a gene pool of high-quality riding animals, as opposed to work horses.
A study released in 2005 suggests two likely source of these horses' forebears. The first source was a stud farm near Kubub, owned by Emil Kreplin, once mayor of Lüderitz from 1909 to 1914. In this period, Kreplin bred both work horses and race horses. Photo albums from the stud show animals with distinctive characteristics still seen in the Namib Desert Horse of today. In addition, during World War I, at one point, the South African military was advancing against the Schutztruppe, then located in the Namib near Aus, when the pilot of a German biplane dropped bombs onto the South African camp near Garub. In the process, some ordnance landed among a herd of 1,700 grazing horses. These escaped army animals may have joined stock animals lost from Kreplin's stud farm during the turmoil of the war. Horses in the area would likely have congregated at the few existing watering places in the Aus Mountains and Garub.
Regardless of origins, after 100 years there were only 200 horses left in the deserts, but those that survived had adapted to the conditions of the South Namib Desert.The Namib desert horses were originally forced to compete with domesticated livestock turned loose by farmers onto the same ground where the horses grazed. Due in part to this competition for limited forage, the horses nearly became extinct. However, they were saved in part due to the efforts of Jan Coetzer, employee of Consolidated Diamond Mine (CDM or DBCM), mining in a certain part of Sperrgebiet. Coetzer was fond of horses and made sure they always had water at the Garub windmill, put there as a permanent water tank by CDM. Later, the horses' habitat was made part of Namib-Naukluft Park in the late 1980s. The park was headed by Chris Eyre, head of the Nature Conservation.
The Namib Desert Horses are athletic, muscular, clean limbed, and are very strong boned. They are short backed with oblique shoulders and good withers. The horses have the appearance of well bred riding horses in head, skin, and coat.The Namib desert horse must eat while on the move. When grazing, they only stay in one spot for a short time. They must cover considerable distances, as much as 15 to 20 kilometres (9 to 12 mi) between the few existing water sources and the best grazing sources.Due to scarcity of water, the Namib desert horse sometimes has to go without water for as long as thirty hours in summer and has been known to go close to 72 hours without water during the winter. As a consequence, Namib Desert Horses are considered very hardy. Due to the distances they must travel and the scarcity of water, selection pressure is severe, and weak animals do not survive. The most common color of the Namib desert horse is bay, although there are a few chestnut horses. There are occasional individuals with dorsal striping but no zebra stripes. No other colors have been recorded
Genetic testing results published in 2001 indicated that Namib Desert Horses are one of the most isolated horse populations in the world, with the second-lowest genetic variation of all horse populations that have been studied to date. In part, this is due to their small founding population, and generally small modern population, made smaller during periods of drought.
On Cothran's Family Tree of Horse breeds, they fall in the Arabian group, nearest the Shagya Arabian, a horse breed from Hungary that had been imported into colonial German South-West Africa. However, though the horses have a genetic similarity to Arabian-type horses, they do not closely resemble them in outward appearance. Further, in blood typing studies done in the 1990s, a new variant was noted. Its absence from the blood samples of all other horse breeds indicates the presence of a mutation that probably occurred after the horses became established in the desert.
The Namib desert horse usually live in herds of up to ten animals, consisting of one or, occasionally, two stallions with a few mares and foals. These are the breeding groups. There are also 'bachelor' groups. The breeding groups are led by a mare. The lead mare decides when to go, stop, choose another grazing spot, and when to go to a water source.
There are few natural predators in the area, other than the Hyena, which poses a threat primarily to foals. When a foal is threatened, it is usually the mare that is the mother of the foal who defends her young. The stallion will deal with threats to the entire herd, though in many cases, the stallion primarily keeps bachelor animals away. There are few serious fights, most are for show.
Prisoner of War Camp
The site at which the camp was located more than eight decades ago, lies south of the main road which connects Lüderitz on the west coast of Namibia with Keetmanshoop in the southern interior.
East of Aus, one turns off the main road into a side road which leads to the prisoner of war camp. Visitors can also reach the site by driving eastwards through Aus and crossing the railway line which lies east of the town. A short distance from the turn-off to the historic site, there stands a sweet thorn Acacia (Acacia karoo). In the immediate vicinity of this tree, a sharp-pointed 2,80 m high granite stone rises from the ground. In 1985 this undamaged stone was moved with great care from a place nearby to its present location next to the sweet thorn tree. The granite slab symbolizes the transitory nature of both the inanimate constructions, the ruins of which can still be seen to this day at the site, and their interwoven human stories.
The gentle rise formed by one of these ruins, seems a natural choice for the location. Fixed to the stone is a bronze plate which carries a relief of a Schutztruppler. The original relief, which measures 9 cm x 14,2 cm, and can be found at Farm Lichtenstein-Nord (owner Mr U. Rusch), was created by the well-known Hans Lichtenecker around 1929. Born on 26 January 1891, Lichtenecker fought during the First World War under the German flag as reservist in South West Africa against the Union of South Africa's invading troops. He died on 25 January 1988 at Gotha, at the age of ninety seven. As is stated on the bronze plate, the National Monuments Council and the Heritage Society of former Colonial and Overseas Troops ("Traditionsverband ehemaliger Schutz- und Uberseetruppen e.V") are jointly responsible for the maintenance of the remains of the Aus prisoner of war camp.
In 1985, the site of the former prisoner of war camp was declared a national monument. On 3 August 1985, during a dignified ceremony to commemorate the establishment of the camp seventy years earlier, the stone monument with its bronze plate was unveiled. Representatives of the Heritage Society of former Colonial and Overseas Troops, the Fellowship of German Soldiers ("Kameradschaft für deutsche Soldaten") and the Memorable Order of Tin Hats were present at the occasion. The ceremony included the laying of wreaths at the graves of both the German prisoners of war and the members of the Protectorate Garrison Regiment, which are contained in the cemetery there. On 9 July 1915, the dark clouds of the First World War disappeared over the horizon for the former German colony of South West Africa. On that day, at Km 500 on the Otavi railway line directly north of Otavi, the Germans signed a Surrender Treaty. As a result, those German troops in South West Africa which had retreated to, and were gathered together at Khorab, came under the command of the Union of South Africa's invading forces. General Louis Botha signed the treaty on behalf of the Union forces, while Governor Theodor Seitz and Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Franke signed on behalf of German South West Africa. Paragraphs 3 and 8 of the Surrender Treaty stipulated that all soldiers and non-commissioned officers of the active German troops, as well as members of the Territorial Police ("Landespolizei" - the former German South West Africa police force) were to be detained as prisoners of war until peace had been concluded in Europe and in other theatres of war. One of the interesting features of the treaty was that it allowed prisoners of war to retain their side arms. Understandably though, this concession did not apply to ammunition.
Initially there were two prisoner of war camps in the former German territory which subsequently became known as South West Africa. A few officers of the active German Colonial Troops and the Territorial Police were detained at the Okanjande camp near Otjiwarongo, because they had refused to give their word of honour that they would, upon release, take up a fixed abode at a place of their choice. It was decided that a prisoner of war camp should be established for non-commissioned officers and men of the Colonial Troops and Territorial Police, a few kilometres east of Aus, in the south of the country. As a result, this lonely and isolated place became a part of our country's history; its tales still capture our imagination, and win our admiration. At first, one wonders why the prisoner of war camp was built specifically at Aus, especially because the area around the town is semi-desert, and the Namib desert itself begins just on the other side of the hills to the west of Aus.
During the South West Africa campaign, Aus was of great strategic importance to both the German defenders and the advancing South African soldiers. One reason was that it was one of the two important railway stations (the other was Seeheim) on the line between Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz. Although the Germans defended Aus with dogged determination, it was occupied towards the end of March 1915 by Brigadier Duncan Mackenzie, who had landed at Lüderitz six months earlier with his troops. The surrender of the German South West Africa Colonial Troops at Km 500 allowed the South African troops to turn their attention fully to the campaign in East Africa. Naturally, the maintenance of a prisoner of war camp is a burden on the economy of a country which is at war. From an economic point of view, Aus was more or less an obvious choice for the site of a prisoner of war camp. At the time (July 1915), there was no railway connection between the Union and South West Africa, because the railway line from Seeheim terminated at Karasburg, and the existing line between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop could only be utilized as far as Aus. Food and other provisions, as well as equipment for the camp at Aus, could be transported quite easily by ship from Cape Town to Lüderitz, and taken from there to Aus by railway.
For Aus, then a tiny village with some twenty houses, two hotels and perhaps half a dozen shops and warehouses, this was the beginning of an activity-filled period. On 21 July 1915, about two weeks after the surrender of the Germans, 797 German prisoners of war were brought by rail from Otavi to Aus. Six days later, on 27 July 1915, Brigadier H.T. Lukin, who was responsible for the execution of the Surrender Treaty, reported that the last train carrying prisoners of war had left Tsumeb on that day, and was on its way to Aus. The German positions at Khorab had by then been completely evacuated. At the same time, five companies of the South African Veterans Regiment (SAVR) and 960 German prisoners of war (POWs) were moved by train from Kimberley to Cape Town.
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The Namib Desert
The Namib is a coastal desert in southern Africa. The name Namib is of Nama origin and means "vast place". According to the broadest definition, the Namib stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, extending southward from the Carunjamba River in Angola, through Namibia and to the Olifants River in Western Cape, South Africa.
The Namib's northernmost portion, which extends 450 kilometres (280 mi) from the Angola-Namibia border, is known as Moçâmedes Desert, while its southern portion approaches the neighboring Kalahari Desert. From the Atlantic coast eastward, the Namib gradually ascends in elevation, reaching up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) inland to the foot of the Great Escarpment. Annual precipitation ranges from 2 millimetres (0.079 in) in the most arid regions to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert in southern Africa.
Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for roughly 55-80 million years, the Namib is also the oldest desert in the world.The desert geology consists of sand seas near the coast, while gravel plains and scattered mountain outcrops occur further inland. The sand dunes, some of which are 300 metres (980 ft) high and span 32 kilometres (20 mi) long, are the second largest in the world after the Badain Jaran Desert dunes in China.
Temperatures along the coast are stable and generally range between 9–20 °C (48–68 °F) annually, while temperatures further inland are variable—summer daytime temperatures can exceed 45 °C (113 °F) while nights can be freezing Fogs that originate offshore from the collision of the cold Benguela Current and warm air from the Hadley Cell create a fog belt that frequently envelops parts of the desert. Coastal regions can experience more than 180 days of thick fog a year.
While this has proved a major hazard to ships—more than a thousand wrecks litter the Skeleton Coast—it is a vital source of moisture for desert life. The Namib is almost completely uninhabited by humans except for several small settlements and indigenous pastoral groups, including the Ovahimba and Obatjimba Herero in the north, and the Topnaar Nama in the central region.
Owing to its antiquity, the Namib may be home to more endemic species than any other desert in the world. Most of the desert wildlife is arthropods and other small animals that live on little water, although larger animals inhabit the northern regions. Near the coast, the cold ocean water is rich in fishery resources and supports populations of brown fur seals and shorebirds, which serve as prey for the Skeleton Coast's lions.
Further inland, the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the largest game park in Africa, supports populations of African Bush Elephants, Mountain Zebras, and other large mammals. Although the outer Namib is largely barren of vegetation, lichens and succulents are found in coastal areas, while grasses, shrubs, and ephemeral plants thrive near the escarpment. A few types of trees are also able to survive the extremely arid climate.
The Namib Desert is one of the 500 distinct physiographic provinces of the South African Platform physiographic division. It occupies an area of around 80,950 km² (31,200 square miles), stretching from the Usiab River (north) to the town of Lüderitz (south) and from the Atlantic Ocean (west) to the Namib Escarpment (east).
It is about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) long from north to south and its east-west width varies from 30 to 100 miles (50–160 km). To the north, the desert leads into the Kaokoveld; the dividing line between these two regions is roughly at the latitude of the city of Walvis Bay, and it consists in a narrow strip of land (about 50 km wide) that is the driest place in Southern Africa.
To the south, the Namib borders on the South African Karoo semi-desert. Southern Namib (between Lüderitz and the Kuiseb River) comprises a vast dune sea with some of the tallest and most spectacular dunes of the world, ranging in color from pink to vivid orange. In the Sossusvlei area, several dunes exceed 300 meters (984 ft) in height. The complexity and regularity of dune patterns in its dune sea have attracted the attention of geologists for decades, but it remains poorly understood. Moving north from Sossusvlei, the sand gradually gives way to a rocky desert that extends all the way from Sossusvlei to the Swakop river. This area is traversed by the Tropic of Capricorn and is mostly flat, although some scenic canyons and elevations are found in some areas, for example in the Moon Valley system. While most of the soil is rocky, sand dunes are still occasionally found in this region; for example, sand dunes occupy much of the coastline between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The Namib desert is an important location for the mining of tungsten, salt and diamonds. Several rivers and streams run through the Namib, although all of the rivers south of the Cunene River and north of the Orange River are ephemeral and rarely or never reach the ocean
These rivers arise in the interior mountains of Namibia and flow after summer rain storms.
The Namib's aridity is caused by the descent of dry air of the Hadley Cell, cooled by the cold Benguela current along the coast. It has less than 10 mm (0.4 inches) of rain annually and is almost completely barren. Besides rain being scarce, it is also hardly predictable. The western Namib gets less rain (5 mm) than the eastern Namib (85 mm). This is due to several factors. Winds coming from the Indian Ocean lose part of their humidity when passing the Drakensberg mountains, and are essentially dry when they reach the Namib Escarpment at the eastern end of the desert. Winds coming from the Atlantic Ocean, on the other hand, are pressed down by hot air from the east; their humidity thus forms clouds and fog. Morning fogs coming from the ocean and pushing inwards into the desert are a regular phenomenon along the coast, and much of the life cycle of animals and plants in the Namib relies on these fogs as the main source of water. The dry climate of the Namib reflects the almost complete lack of bodies of water on the surface. Most rivers flow underground and/or are dry for most of the year, and even when they are not, they usually drain into endorheic basins, without reaching the sea.
The Swakop and the Omaruru are the only rivers that occasionally drain into the ocean. All along the coast, but mostly in the northernmost part of it, interaction between the water-laden air coming from the sea via southerly winds, some of the strongest of any coastal desert, and the dry air of the desert causes immense fogs and strong currents. It causes sailors to lose their way; this is testified by the remnants of a number of shipwrecks that can be found along the Skeleton Coast, in northern Namib. Some of these wrecked ships can be found as much as 50 metres (55 yds) inland, as the desert slowly moves westwards into the sea, reclaiming land over a period of many years.
Benguela's El Nino (similar to the Pacific event in its environmental change in the seas) spreads from the Kunene estuary southward to, on occasion, south of Luderitz. Warm waters with depth and associated water flows from northwesterly direction were first fully catalogued by Sea Fisheries researchers, Cape Town (L V Shannon et al.). The research noted the positive effect of Benguela\'s El Nino on the rainfall of the interior. Rainfall records also show positive values variously across the Namib, Desert Research Station, Gobabeb for instance. This event recurs approximately mid-decade (1974, 1986, 1994, 1995 and 2006 are recent examples)
A number of unusual species of plants and animals are found in this desert, many of which are endemic and highly adapted to the specific climate of the area. One of the most well-known endemic plants of the Namib is the bizarre Welwitschia mirabilis; a shrub-like plant, it grows two long strap-shaped leaves continuously throughout its lifetime. These leaves may be several meters long, gnarled and twisted from the desert winds. The taproot of the plant develops into a flat, concave disc in age. Welwitschia is notable for its survival in the extremely arid conditions in the Namib, mostly deriving moisture from the coastal sea fogs. An area where Welwitschias are a common sight is found in the surroundings of the Moon Valley, including the eponymous Welwitschia Plains.
The Namib fauna mostly comprises arthropods and other small animals that can live on little water, but a few species of bigger animals are also found, including antelopes and gazelles (such as oryxes and springboks), ostrichs, and in some areas even desert elephants. All these species have developed techniques to survive in the Namib environment. A number of endemic darkling beetles species- such as the Namib Desert beetle- have bumpy elytrons with a pattern of hydrophilic bumps and hydrophobic troughs. These cause humidity from the morning fogs to condensate into droplets, which roll down the beetle's back to its mouth; they are collectively known as "fog beetles". Another beetle, the Lepidochora discoidalis, builds "water-capturing" webs. Black-backed jackals lick humidity from stones. Gemsboks (also known as Oryxes) can raise the temperature of their bodies to 40 °C in the hottest hours of the day. The desert is also home to meerkats and several species of lizards.