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Diamonds And Dust: 39 - Dynamite Fishing – Part 1

Malcolm Bertoni and his colleagues at a Namibian diamond mine tried their luck at explosive fishing.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm’s account of working Affenrucken please click on

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

One Sunday we were in the dam at No 1 plant, playing around in the small rowing boat that was there, rowing up and down the dam.

“Did you guys see that? It was a fish. A pretty big one too.”

“There’s no fish in the dams.”

“I’m telling you. I saw a fish.”


We were all still arguing when we got back to shore.

Bruce listened for a while and then interrupted.

“There’s an easy way to find out you know.”


“Dynamite fishing.”


“Dynamite fishing.”

None of us had heard of dynamite fishing.

“What is it?”

“It’s used in Asia, India and even in South Africa. What you do is throw a stick of dynamite in the water, and the explosion stuns the fish. When they all rise to the surface and you can grab them. It’s illegal as it kills more fish than you can recover and a lot goes to waste.”

“Is it safe?” someone asked.

“Of course it’s safe,” Bruce said.

There was silence.

He looked at everyone.

“Well do you want to try it or not?”

We all looked around. The dam was about 250 metres long by about 150 meters wide. There was nothing close by that Bruce could destroy. No-one was brave enough to mention our previous safe experience with the pole. We glanced at each other. Unsaid words and small nods.

“Okay. Let’s have a bash.”

“But Bruce if you mess this up you’re on your own.”

“What can happen? Have a look around, there’s nothing here.”

So Bruce went to the explosives magazine, which was only about two kms away and got the necessary explosive and detonators, etc.

Myself and Piet Bles, who were the only ones brave enough, rowed out with Bruce into the middle of the dam. Perhaps we were the only ones dumb enough to even consider doing this. Bruce was sitting in the stern humming to himself, checking everything. He really loved explosives. Once in the middle of the dam we stopped and checked around.

“Everything ready Bruce?”

“Yep, I’m ready to go.”

“I hope you’ve given that a nice long fuse.”

“I’ve given it about 10 minutes. That should give us ample time to get back to shore.”

Piet and I glanced at one another. I took a deep breath.

“OK. Let’s do it.”

Bruce had taped two or three (I can’t remember the exact number) sticks of dynamite together and tied them to a rock so that they would sink to the bottom and explode.

He lit the fuse and dropped the whole lot over the side.

I was rowing, and I can tell you I got back to shore a lot quicker that I did getting out to the middle.

We all waited as the minutes ticked by.

“How long is it now?”

“About seven minutes, I make it.”

“Get ready to row out to see if any fish come up, guys. Remember they only stay up for a few minutes and then sink back down.”

Almost exactly on 10 minutes there was a muffled explosion and the water heaved and then settled back down. It was a bit of an anticlimax. We did not know how deep the dam was and it must have been pretty deep – at least 4 or 5 metres – so the water dampened the explosion quite a bit.

Two other guys rowed out, and sure enough there a dozen or so fish floating on the surface, not feeling too happy at all. They managed to get about 10. They ranged in size from 40 to 50 centimetres. I don’t know what species they were but they tasted very good that night over the braai (see next story).

Bruce had redeemed himself. We did a bit more dynamite fishing in some of the other dams in the mining area and they all had fish in them. I think Bruce always used two or three sticks of dynamite.

I know that people will shriek in horror at what we were doing, but at the time we didn’t think too much about it. It stopped when Bruce left and probably a good thing too. I’m sure someone would eventually have been killed.


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