The Brandberg Massif viewed from the south at sunset
|Elevation||2,606 m (8,550 ft)|
|Prominence||1,802 m (5,912 ft)|
|Listing||Country high point
|Translation||Fire Mountain (German)|
|Easiest route||Ga'aseb River Valley|
Location and Extent
Brandberg Mountain is located in Damaraland, in the northwestern Namib Desert, near the coast, and covers an area of approximately 650 km². With its highest point, the Königstein (German for 'King's Stone'), standing at 2,606 m (8,550 ft) above sea level and located on the flat Namib gravel plains, on a clear day 'The Brandberg' can be seen from a great distance. There are various routes to the summit, the easiest (also steepest) being up the Ga'aseb river valley, but other routes include the Hungurob and Tsisab river valleys. The nearest settlement is Uis, roughly 30 km from the mountain.
Origin of Name
The name Brandberg is Afrikaans, Dutch and German for Fire Mountain, which comes from its glowing color which is sometimes seen in the setting sun. The Damara name for the mountain is Dâures, which means 'burning mountain', while the Herero name, Omukuruvaro means 'mountain of the Gods'.
The Brandberg Massif or Brandberg Intrusion is a granitic intrusion, which forms a dome-shaped massif. It originated during Early Cretaceous rifting that led to the opening of the South Atlantic ocean. Argon–argon dating yielded intrusive ages of 132 to 130 Ma. The dominant plutonic rock is a homogeneous medium grained biotite-hornblende granite. In the western interior of the massif (Naib gorge), a 2 km in diameter body of pyroxene-bearing monzonite is exposed. The youngest intrusive rocks based on cross-cutting relations are arfvedsonite granite dikes and sills in the southwestern periphery of the Brandberg massif which crop out in the Amis valley. The arfvedsonite granites contain minerals rich in rare earth element minerals such as pyrochlore and bastnaesite. Remnants of Cretaceous volcanic rocks are preserved in a collar along the western and southern margins of the massif. Their angle of dip increases towards the contact where clasts of country-rock occur within the granite forming a magmatic breccia. The origins of the magmas that formed the Brandberg intrusion are related to emplacement of mantle-derived basaltic magma during continental break-up which led to partial melting of crustal rocks resulting in a hybrid granitic magma. Erosion subsequently removed the overburden rock. Apatite fission track dating indicates approximately 5 km denudation between 80 and 60 Ma.
An associated feature is the Doros crater.
The Brandberg is a spiritual site of great significance to the San (Bushman) tribes. The main tourist attraction is The White Lady rock painting, located on a rock face with other art work, under a small rock overhang, in the Tsisab Ravine at the foot of the mountain. The ravine contains more than 1 000 rock shelters, as well as more than 45 000 rock paintings.
To reach The White Lady it is necessary to hike for about 40 minutes over rough terrain, along the ancient watercourses threading through the mountain.
The higher elevations of the mountain contain hundreds of further rock paintings, most of which have been painstakingly documented by Harald Pager, who made tens of thousands of hand copies. Pager's work was posthumously published by the Heinrich Bart Institute, in the six volume series "Rock Paintings of the Upper Brandberg" edited by Tilman Lenssen-Erz. (I. Amis Gorge, II. Hungorob Gorge, III. Southern Gorges (Ga'aseb & Orabes), IV. Umuab & Karoab Gorges, V. Naib (A)and the Northwest, VI. Naib (B), Circus & Dom Gorges. Volume VII. Numas Gorge is unlikely to be published due to discontinued funding.)
The Brandberg is also home to some interesting desert flora. Damaraland is well known for its grotesque aloes and euphorbias and the region around the mountain is no exception. The area has many plants and trees that have an alien appearance, due in part to the extreme climatic conditions.
The area is uninhabited and wild. It is very arid and finding water can be difficult or impossible. In summer temperatures over 40°C are routine.
Nonetheless, the Brandberg area is home to a large diversity of wildlife. The numbers of animals are small because the environment cannot support large populations, however most of the desert species that are found in Namibia are present and visitors to the area might glimpse a desert dwelling elephant or a rare black rhino.
The new insect taxon Mantophasmatodea was first discovered on this mountain in 2002.
Flora of Namibia
The Brandberg lies within the Karroo-Namib floristic region and few members of the Cape flora are represented. A checklist of 357 species was published in 1974 by Bertil Nordenstam stating that 11 taxa are endemic to the Brandberg, with a further 28 species endemic to the Kaoko element. A large and significant group of species has a disjunction between the Karroo-Namib region in the south, and the arid parts of north-east Africa. These appear to be remnants of a hypothesised arid-track joining the two areas.
Aloe dichotoma is the largest and arguably the most conspicuous succulent on the mountain exceeding 5m height. It is infrequently encountered, mainly on the upper southern slopes.
Cyphostemma currorii is another large succulent of the grape family that is scattered across the mountain.
Myrothamnus flabellifolius is the resurrection plant. It is common on some of the upper slopes, and can be made into a tea.
Olea europaea subsp. africana. Not normally associated with such arid regions, this is only known from the peak of Konigstein.
Euphorbia monteiroi subsp. brandbergensis is a toxic upright succulent found in the upper altitudes. It is occasionally browsed, presumably by dassies (rock hyraxes).
Plumbago wissii has pink flowers.
Hermannia merxmuelleri was previously only known from Tsisab valley, and is unusual within the genus in having a crested capsule much like the American species of Hermannia and Hermannia cristata from the summer-rainfall region of South Africa.
Othonna brandbergensis discovered by B. Nordenstam on the 29th May 1963.
World Heritage Status
- Schmitt, A.K.; Emmermann R.; Trumbull R.B.; Bühn B.; Henjes-Kunst F. (2000). "Petrogenesis and 40Ar/39Ar Geochronology of the Brandberg Complex, Namibia: Evidence for a Major Mantle Contribution in Metaluminous and Peralkaline Granites". Journal Of Petrology 41 (8): 1207–1239. doi:10.1093/petrology/41.8.1207.
- Raab, M. J.; Brown R.W.; Gallagher K.; Weber K.; Gleadow A.J.W. (2005). Tectonics 24: TC3006. doi:10.1029/2004TC001688.
- Prendini, L. & Bird, T.L. 2008. Scorpions of the Brandberg Massif, Namibia: Species richness inversely correlated with altitude. African Invertebrates 49 (2): 77-107.
- Nordenstam, Bertil (December 1974). The Flora of the Brandberg. Dinteria 11 (Windhoek, Namibia).
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