The town of Coober Pedy, Australia has been the opal capital of the world since 1915—that’s 100 years of one little town producing most of the gem-quality opals for the entire planet. You’d think by now they’d have turned the place into some kind of reasonably bustling little hamlet—maybe with a Starbucks franchise and a strip club at least? But Coober Pedy is unbearably hot and dry, with dust storms and 110 degree temperatures on the regular. So what’s a poor opal-miner to do? Go underground, of course!
Yes, the roughly 1,700 inhabitants of Coober Pedy live in the beautiful caverns left over from opal mining—there are nearly 1,500 houses connected by tunnels, with all the modern amenities and a glossy coating sealing the exposed rock walls to prevent constant dust accumulation. Not only that, the town has stores, a bar, a church, a museum, an art gallery and a hotel—it’s a legitimate town, not just a tourist attraction. The Coober Pedy name comes from a less-than-flattering aboriginal word meaning “white man’s hole,” but not only do the caverns provide safe, clean shelter and keep a comfortable temperature in blistering heat, there are actual bits of opal in the wall. It’s really quite a striking interior.
So when climate change bakes the surface of the earth, we’re all down to become modern mole-people, right?
In Coober Pedy, the dead are closer to the surface than the living.
Entryway to tunnels.
Coober Pedy home.
The town has an underground museum and art gallery.
Serbian Orthodox Church entrance and arch.
More Coober Pedy after the jump…