Namibia, a Geologist’s Dream
We have had many geologists travel with us unraveling the mysteries of earth’s magnificent formations. Surely, Namibia where nearly half of its bedrock is exposed and encompasses 2600 million years of Earth’s history surpasses most geologists’ dreams.
Two German geologists Henno Martin and Hermann Korn were living in Windhoek, the capital, with their dog Otto, when WW1 broke out. “This was not our war’” they said and decided they had seen it coming for a long time, “we wanted no hand or part in the mass suicide of civilised peoples”. These two very different characters, Hermann Korn, brilliant but unsteady, he suffered from depression and drank heavily, was drawn to Henno Martin, tenacious and self-disciplined.
To avoid the internment camps in South West Africa (Namibia today) they loaded up their truck with provisions and drove to the Kuseb Canyon. It is here they lived for two and a half years under conditions that would be unimaginable today. Living by their wits and scavenging food from the land, hunting and when the rains fell planting a garden they survived. Their story today, is woven into Namibia’s extraordinary history and brings to life Namibia’s beauty, isolation, wild life, towering rocks formations and its red deserts.
At the end of the second winter Korn Herman contracted beri-beri.. caused by a vitamin B-1 deficiency, and the men were forced to come out of hiding. Henno Martin took him to hospital and then with Otto the dog drove back into the desert. It was not long before he was picked up by the police. Fortunately both men escaped being thrown into jail and in fact were hired by the government to conduct water explorations, selecting locations of boreholes throughout the country and in Windhoek, providing the city with its first large-scale, reliable source of water.
In 1946, Korn Herman was killed in a car accident when driving his car at speed along railway tracks, suggesting it might have been suicide. Henno Martin went on to be a truly great geologist and wrote the book ‘The Sheltering Desert’ which has never been out of print.
Living and dead matter were so obviously at variance here, and the living matter so obviously triumphant in its adaptability over the dead elements and their rigid laws that the barren wilderness seemed to us more essentially alive than green trees rustling in the wind. Henno Martin.