The story of Coober Pedy is one highlighting the impressive ability of human beings to adapt to extreme weather conditions. This place, which is situated in northern South Australia, is notable for its homes built under the surface of the ground and is renowned for its massive supply of the gemstone, Opal. A look at the surface may give an impression of an abandoned desert location. But below it are normal people living normal lives.
This town in the Australia Outback was established in February 1915 in the aftermath of the discovery of opal in the area by Willie Hutchison. The name of the place, Coober Pedy, is a product of the local term “Kupa-Piti” used by the Aborigines to describe the area, meaning “white man’s hole.” The name was, perhaps, in reference to the dugouts or holes created in the ground when prospecting for opals. People soon trooped from different places down to this small Australian town, which is often described as the “opal capital of the world,” to benefit from the gemstone discovery there, swelling its population in the process.
Advent of Underground Homes
People who moved to Coober Pedy in search of opals soon realized that it was very uncomfortable staying or living above the ground, given the extreme temperatures in the desert location. Since these people did not have problem working beneath the ground, they concluded that it would not be a bad idea to live under the ground as well. This led to the emergence of underground homes or “dugouts”, which were converted from old mines, to serve as protection from Australia’s harsh weather conditions. Temperatures on the surface often go beyond 40 degrees Celsius during summer and things could become uncomfortably cold during winter. But in these underground homes, a relatively stable temperature is maintained without having to install heating or air-conditioning systems.
Coober Pedy Today
The homes in Coober Pedy used to be very small spaces, but not anymore. These days, you will be surprised to see larger and highly sophisticated homes in this stunning underground community, which is probably the world’s only underground town in active use today. Some of these newer structures include inns and hotels catering to numerous tourists from different parts of the world who come around to check out this strange and one-of-a-kind place. What lies underneath the surface of this location is in stark contrast to what you may see on the surface. Many of the underground homes, inns and hotels boasts of several amenities that are usually associated with urban living. A handful of underground churches can also be seen here.Coober Pedy has become a popular tourist destination and stopover point in Australia. It has been featured in a number of movies, including Pitch Black (starring Vin Diesel), Opal Dream, Red Planet, Until the End of the World and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The town was also used for the second season of CBS Television’s The Amazing Show.
Coober Pedy has been the major producer of finest quality opals in the world since its inception. Little wonder it is called the opal capital of the world. The town has the biggest opal mining area in the world, with more than 70 opal mining fields.
The town of Coober Pedy is truly a wonderful and an amazing location that is worth checking out. Do not be deceived by the surface, underground is where you will find the real thing. In spite of the lack of grass in the area, it may interest you to know that you can actually engage in a game of golf in Coober Pedy. That’s amazing, you’d say.
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