1908: In German South-West Africa, a coloured worker named Zacharias Lewala, shovelling sand against an embankment in a railway siding, came across a diamond. Lewala’s supervisor, August Stauch, straight away quit his railway job to search for diamonds full-time.
On the final day of the year, Stauch and Robert Scheibe, a professor from the Royal Mining Academy in Berlin, were prospecting among the dunes along the Atlantic coast. Late in the afternoon, Stauch found their labourer, Jakob, collecting wood for the camp fire. Stauch jokingly told him to look for diamonds rather than wood. Jakob knelt on the sand and Stauch was amazed to see him scoop up diamonds with his hands. So many, in fact, that Jakob stuffed the gems into his mouth so that he could gather more. Diamonds lay on the sand “like plums under a plum tree”, said Scheibe. “Ein Märchen! Ein Märchen!” he babbled (“A fairy tale! A fairy tale!”).
When darkness fell, Stauch and Scheibe chatted, far too excited to sleep. Instead of the usual sea mist and sandstorm, the air that night was calm and clear. The moon rose. On the sandy slopes of the fairy-tale valley, diamonds glittered in the moonlight.
Source: Olga Levinson, Diamonds in the Desert: The Story of August Stauch and His Times (1983), pp. 57–9