KIMBERLEY’S MAJESTIC BIG HOLE
Kimberley, the capital city of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. Known for its 19th-century diamond mines, more especially the deep, hand-dug Big Hole – the world’s largest man-made hole.
A trip to the Northern Cape would be incomplete without a visit to the Big Hole. A tourist attraction that continues to attract tourists from around the globe. The story behind the Big Hole dates back to 1871, when digging first started. Needless to say, in just over a year, the population of the digging camp multiplied in into the thousands, and as the digging continued, more and more men perished due to mining related accidents. The unsanitary surroundings, lack of water and fresh produce, as well as the summer’s extreme heat, also an impact on the number deaths. It believed however, that the picks and shovels yielded a staggering 2 722 kilograms of diamonds.
What began as a flat-topped hill then, disappeared in a flurry of prospection and is now a 215-metre-deep chasm with a surface area of 17 hectares and a perimeter of 1.6 kilometres. A spectacular site indeed. The Kimberley Mine Museum, located nearby, is a recreation of the town in its heyday, and it displays jewellery and uncut diamonds, while the William Humphreys Art Gallery exhibits South African work, including Old Master drawings, 17th-century European paintings and modern art.
The underground mine at Kimberley reaches a depth of 1097 metres. After all these years, it may be hard for some to believe that the underground operations at the Kimberley mines were only recently closed, and that the Big Hole was massively upgraded to become a tourist attraction.
Visitors can go underground in a recreation of a mine shaft from the time period, watch a film about diamonds in Kimberley, visit an exhibition centre, see a diamond display, use the new viewing platform to get a bird’s eye view of the Big Hole from above, and visit the Old Town to see Kimberley in its prime.