Have you ever visited the “Big Hole Museum” in Kimberley? If not, then put it on your “to Do” list for the next time you visit Kimberley, South Africa.
The Big Hole, Open Mine, Kimberley Mine is the main attraction in Kimberley. Everyday tour groups from all over the globe come and visit this amazing hole, excavated by hand.
Diamonds were first found by Damon on Colesberg Kopje by members of the “Red Cap Party” from Colesberg on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the DeBeers brothers, in 1871. The ensuing scramble for claims led to the place being called New Rush, later renamed Kimberley.
From mid-July 1871 to 1914 up to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,720 kilograms (13,600,000 carats) of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares and is 463 metres wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 metres, but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 metres. Since then it has accumulated about 40 metres of water, leaving 175 metres of the hole visible. Once above-ground operations became too dangerous and unproductive, the kimberlite pipe of the Kimberley Mine was also mined underground by Cecil John Rhodes’ De Beers company to a depth of 1,097 metres.
In 1872, one year after digging started, the population of the camp of diggers grew to around 50,000. As digging progressed, many men met their deaths in mining accidents. The unsanitary conditions, scarcity of water and fresh vegetables as well as the intense heat in the summer, also took their toll.
On 13 March 1888 the leaders of the various mines decided to amalgamate the separate diggings into one big mine and one big company known as De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, with life governors such as Cecil John Rhodes, Alfred Beit and Barney Barnato. This huge company further worked on the Big Hole until it came to the depth of 215 metres, with a surface area of about 17 hectares and perimeter of 1.6 kilometres. By 14 August 1914, when over 22 million tons of earth had been excavated, yielding 3,000 kilograms (14,504,566 carats) of diamonds, work on the mine ceased after it was considered the largest hand-dug excavation on earth.
Our Visit and Experience to The Big Hole Museum:
On the day we visited The Big Hole Museum, the weather was fantastic. A typical summers day in the Northern Cape with a mid day temperature of 36°C.
My daughter and I took the short ride with the old antique tram, that runs through a small part of the old town, pass the oldest Pub in Town, “Star of the West”. Sadly that the Pub is no longer operating, for reasons not known to me. A few minutes in the ride, the tram stops, and the driver steps out and swing the power contact around, so that we could travel back to the museum.
On our return we went to the restaurant that is located within the main building. Serving the best waffles and beacon makes it the obvious choice for breakfast. One should think that a tourist hub like the Big Hole Museum would serve expensive food, but they’re not. Support them, cause they are serving delicious food, and great coffee.
From the restaurant area, you can take a relaxed stroll, and visit the small shops within the complex. At the enquiry desk you pay your entry fee of R90, to go on the lookout ramp. From there you’ll be overlooking the Big Hole. It is quit an experience walking on the humongous ramp to the lookout point. Breathtaking views awaits you, when you reach the front of the ramp. The magnitude of the Big Hole can only then be realised, when put in perspective with the town of Kimberley in the background.
What to do in Kimberley
Contact Jaco Powell for any tours in and around Kimberly. Feel free to visit his site http://kalaharisafari.com for more info. He specialise in Ghost Tours in Kimberley.
For photography needs visit http://www.jacobsphotography.co.za