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How Did Sandwich Harbour get its Name?

Sandwich Harbour Namibia

How Did Sandwich Harbour get its Name?

Sandwich Harbour in Namibia, also called Sandfisch Hafen (German), Sandvishawe (Afrikaans), or Anichab (Nama) where the Kuiseb River formerly flowed into the ocean.

The Nama name is Anichab, translated is ‘the place where many birds are’. Even today one can see up to 50,000 seabirds, such as Flamingos, Pelicans, Terns, and Plovers at this beautiful site. German ‘Sandfisch’; or Afrikaans Sandvis is a Sand Shark, 80-100cm long and about 2kg, commonly found at Sandwich harbour.

Did you know that Sandwich Harbour is a bay and not a harbour? It is too shallow for harbour purposes and its entrance keeps silting up with sand.

To this day there is no clarity on the name, as different sources state different reasons. A walk along a historical past may enlighten us!

In 1701 Portuguese sailors named Sandwich Harbour: BAHIA da BAHLEAS- Bay of Whales, as they saw many whales. This was the first recorded name for Sandwich Harbour.

In 1785 Capt. James Shields of Samuel Enderby (fishing company) was chartered to catch whales along the Angolan and Namibian Coast. He sent his sailors south to collect freshwater, as the bay was known to them. It is generally inferred that Enderby whale men first mapped the Bay and possibly named it Sandwich after one of their ships or an Admiral. Or, it is said that Capt. James Shields was a compulsive card player and had no time to eat. He, therefore, ordered his staff to serve him the bread as they are known today as sandwiches.

Pastor Walter Moritz writes in his publication: ‘Wasted traces in the Namib Desert’, that the Harbour, a Bay with Sweet water and lagoon wetlands is sandwiched like a sandwich, between the huge Sand dunes and the sea. As truly the huge Sand dunes are right up against the Sea and it is only possible to pass to Sandwich Harbour at low tide with a 4WD Vehicle and a guide.

On the map in the Rhenish Mission Atlas of 1891 Sandwich Harbour is written, while in the “New Mission Atlas” of 1896 Sandfisch Hafen stands. On the map of 1894, however, both names and the Portuguese name appear. It thus seems that once it became a German colony the name Sandwich Harbour was changed to Sandfisch Hafen?

After the South African government took over German South West Africa in 1915, a lot of English and Afrikaans people came to Namibia. Walvis Bay was flooded with Fishermen and Farmers. It can then be deduced that the Afrikaans translation of Sandfish which is ‘sandvis’  became common nomenclature. Thus Sandvis Hawe, was born and used by locals until today.

Furthermore, it can also be deduced that the English word Sandwich could actually have been verbalized from the English word ’Sandwich’, as for the German tongue a difficult word to pronounce, and Sandfisch is as close as it gets.

To this day the name Sandwich Harbour remains steadfast and we could still only say, it could come from respect shown to Admiral Sandwich who enjoyed his sandwiches, after whom the ship HMS Sandwich was named, who were the whalers sailing it, that first mapped and documented this bay for Britain, as the sole winner of this debate. The first name used is thus still used today, on all maps.

Sandwich Harbour Namibia
Photo Credit: Desert, Dunes & Dust Tours Client
Sandwich Harbour Namibia
Photo Credit: Desert, Dunes & Dust Tours Client