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May 24, 2012

The Big Hole of Kimberley

The Big Hole

The Big Hole, located in Kimberley, South Africa, may not look like much at first glance. Hardly something one would look at twice next to some of the other wonders of planet Earth. What makes this crater unusual is its origin. You see, at almost 500 meters in diameter and over 200 meters in depth, the Big Hole is quite possibly the largest hole in the world dug entirely by hand.

In 1866, a man named Erasmus Jacobs found what he thought was a shiny pebble on the banks of the Orange River. An examination revealed the ”pebble” to be a 21.25-carat diamond. Some time later in 1871 an even larger diamond measuring 83.50 carats was discovered on the slopes of the hill Colesberg Kopje.

This triggered a massive diamond rush in which thousands of hopeful miners arrived in the area with picks and shovels, searching for the buried treasures of Colesberg Kopje. In a short time, the hill disappeared and a massive hole took its place. Over 22 million tons of earth and 2,722 kilograms of diamonds had been excavated when the mine was closed in 1914.

A darker side of the Big Hole lies in the sheer loss of life involved in the diamond frenzy. Safety in the huge pit was about what you would expect, and countless men lost their lives in mining accidents. The unsanitary conditions, heat and poor availability of water also took their toll.

Today, the Big Hole is a tourist attraction and attempts are ongoing to register it as a World Heritage Site.


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