A focus on: The Blue Train
By Sukie Chapman
15 December 2017
As luxury train rides go, it would be misguided to not consider South Africa's The Blue Train amongst the very best.Read more
Kimberley is the capital of South Africa's Northern Cape, and has enjoyed a prosperous past thanks to the discovery of diamonds in the area. In 1866, Erasmus Jacobs uncovered what was later found to be a diamond on the banks of the Orange River. This was followed by a few further discoveries in the same locality, and by the early 1870s there was a massive rush as people from all over the country flocked to try and find their fortune. The rush was such that by 1873, Kimberley was the second-largest town in South Africa - but the region did not have a proper name until the rush. It was decided that the settlement should be named Kimberley after Lord Kimberley, the British minister for the Colonies, because it was a name he could "both spell and pronounce".
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The hill in the area where the diamonds were first found quickly disappeared under the pressure of being mined by thousands of people. The resulting space became known as the 'Big Hole'. Incredibly, the hole has a surface of 42 acres (17 hectares), and is 1,519 feet (463 metres) wide. The mine underneath reached a depth of 3,599 feet (1,097 metres). Nowadays the mine is no longer in use, but there is a fascinating museum detailing the history of the site. This includes some preserved or restored period buildings from the early years of the rush.