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Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast

The region native bushmen called “The Land God Made in Anger” and colonial sailors labeled “The Gates of Hell” it today known as the Skeleton Coast. Often used to designate the whole Namib Desert coast, technically the term refers to the northern desert coast stretching from the Kunene River to the Swakop River. Inland from the coast are Namibia’s Damaraland and Kaokoland regions.

The Skeleton Coast derives its moniker from not only from the whale and seal carcasses scattered along the shoreline during the heyday of the whaling industry, but also from the thousands of decaying shipwrecks littering its beaches. Perhaps the Skeleton Coast’s most recognizable feature is the high sand dunes north of Terrace Bay, but the southern coast is primarily gravel plains. The upswelling of the Benguela current creates dense ocean fogs during most of the year, while the prevailing winds blow from land to sea causing annual rainfall to rarely exceed 10 millimeters. In colonial times, the shoreline’s persistently heavy surf prevented boats from launching from the beach.

Much of the coast is protected within Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park, preserving the region’s sparse but unique animal populations. From specially adapted plants and insects that subsist on the dense sea fogs to the baboon, giraffe, lion, elephant, and rhinoceros populations that inhabit the inland riverbeds, the Skeleton Coast is a fascinatingly unique ecosystem.

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