Coober Pedy is the world capital of opals and the underground city. Australia
People of the older generation probably remember the Soviet film “Kin Dza Dza”. There was an episode where the main characters are brought to the city. But there is no city as such. There are only small pipes, sticking out in the middle of a desert landscape. The people in this movie (at least some part of them) lived underground, and the pipes served as ventilation. Entire settlements lived literally in the ground, only occasionally making their way to the surface.
So the movie town has a very real prototype. This is the mining town of Coober Pedy, located approximately in the center of the state of South Australia. It lies in the mountain range of Stuart, 300 kilometers from the National Park Lake Eyre. The surrounding countryside is a desolate and desolate landscape. It is sparsely populated for hundreds of kilometers around. Adelaide (the state’s largest city and fifth-largest in Australia) is about 850 kilometers south on the Stewart Highway.
Kuber Pedy on a map
- Geographical coordinates are -29.010474, 134.757343
- Distance from the Australian capital Canberra about 1550 kilometers
- Distance to the nearest airport in Sydney is about 360 km
All distances are “in a straight line”.
And people do live there underground, in specially dug apartments. The decision to live under a layer of earth is dictated by the local natural conditions. During the day the air is heated to 40 ° C, and at night the temperature can drop to 7 ° C. The sudden changes in temperature make life on the surface not entirely comfortable. And periodic sandstorms make the situation even worse.
Here we couldn’t help digressing. It seemed to us that these “terribly severe”, literally unbearable conditions are not so terrible. Read about Cold Pole in Russian Oymyakon. Conditions there are really very hard. Even car tires can crumble like chocolate there and temperature of minus 40-50 is quite usual.
What, in principle, made people go underground in Coober Pedy? After all, Australia is a wonderful continent; there are so many places much more livable. Take for example Hyams Beach, a beach with perfectly white sand. Dig in the sand and look at the ocean. Or Fraser Island, where the sand has been fighting the rainforest for hundreds of years. But no, people are drawn to the desert, and under the ground, too. The answer is really simple. There are huge reserves of this precious mineral. Opal is why people still live here. It has been mined here since 1915.
In fact, the first time common opal was found here was back in 1849, at the height of the gold rush. Full-scale mining began in 1915, when the noble opal was already found here. Scientists estimate that approximately 30% of the world reserves of this valuable mineral are found there. That is why Kuber Pedy is also called the Opal Capital of the World. Opal is widely used in jewelry.
The miners adapted to live in dugouts. The temperature there was almost always about 22oC. Often miners went to work directly from home, for this tunnels were dug directly into the mine. Workers dug whole houses underground, and lived in them perfectly. In addition to housing there is a bar, museum, churches, art gallery and even a hotel for tourists who want to experience what it is like to live underground.
The development of technology and engineering has allowed more than half of the residents to move to the surface, but there are citizens who still live underground. And they live very well. They have everything they need for a comfortable stay – the kitchen, living room, bedrooms and even bathrooms. Of course, there is electricity, running water and sewage. They have such apartments are called “Dugout” and are made in two variants. Natural and modern.
In the first variant, the walls of the housing is only strengthened with special impregnants or emulsion of the usual PVA glue. This prevents them from crumbling and eliminates dust. In addition, such decoration creates the illusion of primordialism. You can take pigments and scatter on the walls of mammoths, or in our case kunguru.
Modern design involves the creation of familiar rooms, but only underground. The floor, walls and ceiling in this case are leveled, plastered and poured. The result is quite a modern dwelling. The only thing that gives it away underground is the lack of windows. In the beginning, traditionally there were two windows near the front door, but then the temperature balance in the room was disturbed. But now you can solve this problem by installing an air conditioner. Everything else is the same as in any modern house. Sometimes both styles are combined and you can get from an ultra-fashionable and modern living room to a primitive bedroom.
Exiles of the sun: the town of Coober Pedy, where people live underground
In the middle of the Victorian Desert in southern Australia lies the mining town of Coober Pedy, which means ‘white man hole’ in Aboriginal terms. In these parts, 50-degree heat is the norm of life. So are regular sandstorms. That is why the townspeople (more than two thousand people) live in houses dug into the ground. The underground part of the city is also ideal for shopping, swimming in the pool, going to church, or even the cemetery without having to reach the surface.
A reasonable question arises: what did people forget there in general? And they have forgotten the opals and are actively looking for them. There is almost a third of the world reserves of this mineral, which is greatly valued by jewelers, concentrated in the depths of the earth around Kuber Pedy.
Opal mining was launched here in 1915, and people quickly realized that it was quite easy to escape the heat: you could stay off the surface and live in the mines you had dug. In an underground dwelling the optimum temperature is maintained by itself – all year round about 22 degrees Celsius.
Currently, it is forbidden to dig mines on the territory of the town, so many residents have moved into traditional houses with all conveniences. And they take care of their air conditioners like the apple of their eye. But there are a lot of people, who stay true to the traditions. Their “dugouts” are quite comfortable – they have electricity, running water, and sewage.
Two types of design of underground apartments are widespread in Coober Pedy: natural and modern. With a natural finish is limited to the fact that the walls and ceiling are covered with a special mortar, so they do not dust.
And if the owners choose the modern version, then after the room is shaped, it is covered with dry plaster. It looks almost like an ordinary apartment, but without windows.
The decoration of some of the houses is quite rich – the sale of opals brings good money.
Over the years, the locals have built a whole underground city. In addition to the residential part, branching corridors lead to a gallery of stores, a restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool, a church, a cemetery…
Not surprisingly, such an unusual town attracts many tourists. Every year thousands of fans of exoticism come to Kuber Pedy. And it’s easy to get here, as the Adelaide – Alice Springs railroad runs close by. Of course, a museum, hotel and gift store are open to tourists.
In the background of Coober Pedy is often filmed movies. For example, there were shooting “Mad Max 3” with Mel Gibson and “Black Hole” – the first part of the series about the adventures of Riddick. And in 2012, not far from the city specialists NASA conducted maneuvers expedition to Mars.