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How Did Sandwich Harbour get its Name?

Sandwich Harbour Namibia

Sandwich Harbour, also called Sandfisch HafenSandvishawe (in local Afrikaans language), NARIEP or Anichab (ANIXAB in traditional Nama language) where freshwater surfaces right next to the sea, lies 65km south of Walvisbay in Namibia. A must visit when traveling to Namibia. Accessible only by 4WD vehicle. Desert, Dunes and Dust Tours offers day and self-drive guided tours.

The Nama name Nariep, translated is ‘the place where many birds are’. Even today one can see up to 50000 seabirds, such as Flamingos, Pelicans, Terns and Plovers on the lagoon or bay.

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

Diego Cão named the area Port d’Ilheo (point of the island) in 1486 when he and other Portuguese sailors sailed into the natural harbour.

In 1785-1789 Capt. James Shields of Samuel Enderby and Son Fishing company, was chartered to catch whales along the Angolan and Namibian Coast with 3 ships. He sent his sailors south to collect fresh water, as the bay was known to them. It is generally inferred that Enderby whale men first mapped the Bay and named it ‘SANDWICH HARBOUR’. ‘They found Fresh water close to the sea and the sea was rippling with fish and whales.’ 

The name, ’Sandwich Harbour’, first appeared in 1791 on a map of Alexander Darymple. A sketch, which is depicted there, mentions in the description that the bay was mapped on April 1, 1789. (J. Kinahan)

The question then is where does the name Sandwich come from? The following options are available:

Perhaps the port was named after Capt. Shields’ ship the ‘HMS Sandwich’, as was customary at the time, who first mapped the Bay? Where did the ship get its name from?

There was an Admiral John Montagu Sandwich, the first lord of the Admiralty. It is said he was a compulsive card player and had no time to eat. He therefore ordered his staff to serve him the breads as they are known today as ‘sandwiches’.

And then Admiral Edward Montagu Sandwich, which in 1622 fell as deputy commander-in-chief of the British Navy fleet, fighting against the Dutch. Could it be about this famous Admiralty?

Pastor Walter Moritz further writes in his publication: “Wasted traces in the Namib Desert”. The interpretation of Sandfish Hafen is only a later version. People at that time thought the name came from the Harbour, or Bay, with sweet water and lagoon wetlands, being 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. – Sandwich Harbour Tour.

In 1884 Germany proclaimed a protectorate over the area from the Orange River to the Kunene River, excluding the enclave of Walfish Bay (Britain retained it). The Germans, in 1890, then called this area Sandfisch Hafen. Germany’s hope for a Harbour, but accessibility to it through the Dune belt was exceedingly difficult.

‘Sandfisch’ is a Sand Shark, commonly found at Sandwich harbour, thus, a far cry from a sandwich?

 After the South African government took over German South West Africa in 1915,  Walvis Bay was flooded with Fishermen and Farmers and their favourite fishing spot was called SANDVIS HAWE. It can be deduced that the Afrikaans translation of Sandvis is derived from the German Sandfisch which both mean Sandfish.

 Furthermore, it can also be deduced that the English word Sandwich, could have been verbalised or ‘verbalhornt’, into German, as for the German tongue, a difficult word to pronounce, and Sandfisch is as close as it gets. When a German person says ‘sandwich’ in his mother tongue it sounds like ‘Sandfisch’.

 Even to this day, local German people call it Sandfisch Hafen, and Afrikaans people call it Sandvis Hawe.

 The name SANDWICH HARBOUR remains on all current Maps of Namibia, and we could only deduce, it could come from respect shown to Admiral Sandwich, after whom the ship ‘HMS Sandwich’, was named. The whalers sailing it, that first mapped and documented this bay for Britain, named it ‘SANDWICH HARBOUR’, after their ship, which was common practice at that time. The first name used is thus still used today. Sandwich Harbour!

Experience the popular Sandwich Harbour full day or half day tour, powered by Desert, Dunes and Dust Tours.

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