Monday, June 13, 2011

A non-inviting name for an exciting place: Sperrgebiet National Park

 The masculine noun Sperrgebiet is a compositum derived from the German words sperren and Gebiet. The verb sperren means to close or to cordon off and the noun Gebiet means area or district.  Thus, Sperrgebiet means prohibited area or forbidden area—forbidden for unauthorized persons. Such a word does not sound inviting, but in Namibia a National Park got this term in its name for historical reasons. In 1908, when present-day Namibia was South-West Africa, a German protectorate (colony), diamonds were found in its southwest corner, which was then declared Sperrgebiet and made accessible only to a diamond company and its miners [1].

Namibia, one of the world's first nations to write environmental protection into its constitution, set its entire Atlantic coast aside as a string of National Parks with the exception of a few towns and mining areas. Between Angola in the north and South Africa you'll find Iona National Park, Skeleton Coast Park (another non-inviting name!), Dorob National Park, Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibian Islands' Marine Protected Area and—last not least—Sperrgebiet National Park (see map on page 69 in [1]).

A Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) concessionaire is needed to travel into Sperrgebiet National Park. Don't be surprised if you find other German names there such as Bogenfels, meaning arch-rock, for a colossal 55m tall rock arch  (different languages, different word order) at the southern extremity of the park [2]. You shouldn't have problems with the translation of Diamantenmine to diamond mine. But what you are supposed to do, if you find a diamond, I don't know.

References and interesting links
[1] Alexandra Fuller: Africa's Super Park. National Geographic June 2011, 219 (6), 60-77. [].
[2] The Sperrbebiet National Park:

No comments:

Post a Comment