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About This Episode:
Bartolomeu Dias sailed along the Atlantic coast in 1488. Near the area of today’s Henties Bay he discovered such an abundance of fish that he named this coastline Praia das Sardinhas, Coast of Fish. The fresh water source was first discovered by Schutztruppe soldiers in 1886. In 1920, a minerals prospector stayed overnight. After tasting the water he was said to be healed from an affliction.
The namesake of the town is major Hendrik “Henty” Stefanus van der Merwe who discovered the place in 1929 while looking for water. He had been hunting a rhinoceros in the arid hinterland of the Namibian coast near the Brandberg in order to collect a reward from a museum in Pennsylvania that was in search of a rhino skeleton. After shooting the rhino and scraping meat from the bones, water resources of the expedition diminished and forced the party to load the decomposing carcass and search for water.
They chose to head into the direction of the Atlantic coast and reached it close to Cape Cross. From there van der Merwe and his fellows searched southwards for the mouth of Omaruru River. A few miles south of the mouth they discovered a deep sand valley with reed grass growing in it, advertising the presence of fresh water. Van der Merwe liked the place and after delivering the bones and collecting his reward, returned the following Christmas to build a wooden hut in the riverbed. The place became known as Henty se baai (Henty’s Bay) and developed into a holiday hideout, mainly because of the abundance of fish at this spot.
In 1951 the South–West Africa Administration mandated to South Africa, proclaimed erven in the Omaruru riverbed that were available for rent, but the erection of permanent structures was not allowed. The first shop was established during that time. A lighthouse was erected to guide ships along the dangerous Namibian coast. In the 1960s mining holes were dug after diamonds had been found in the area on a few occasions. A few years later mining was abandoned due to lack of success. In 1966 it was decided that the riverbed must not be settled in, and property north and south of it was sold. A hotel was built one year later, and the town began to develop.
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