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A Desolate Exterior, A Populated Basement In This Australian City, People Live In A Dense Underground Network.

When one arrives in the Australian town of Coober Pedy, it is easy to marvel at its desolation. The few scattered structures and a hostile climate in summer and winter give the impression that this place is one of those centers almost forgotten by the world.

Yet some 3,500 people live here, of which around 1,700 are permanent residents, belonging to no less than 45 different nationalities. And that’s not all: Coober Pedy is the world’s largest center for the extraction of opal, a mineral whose subsoil is very rich. So how is it possible that, from the outside, the city seems almost uninhabited? The answer is as obvious as it is incredible: almost all of its inhabitants live … underground!

#1

image credit: Channel 4 Documentary/Youtube

This city is located in a desert area in southern Australia , 850 km from Adelaide, one of those places the country is famous for, and which would be difficult to imagine for those born and living in densely populated areas. .

#2

image credit: Steve Collis/Flickr

A torrid climate in summer and very cold in winter , geographical isolation, but great mineral wealth. The precious opal – 97% of the world’s production of which is found in Australia – is what makes this place so special. The men who began to extract and exploit it at the beginning of the 20th century therefore had no choice but to take refuge underground in order to survive.

#3

image credit: Lodo27/Wikimedia

Considering the heat here, it’s very hard to believe that Coober Pedy 150 million years ago was at the bottom of a huge body of ocean water. Yet it did, and this is precisely the reason why a unique mineral wealth resides in the subsoil today.

#4

image credit: Kerry Raymond/Wikimedia

Founded in 1915, Coober Pedy owes its name to the indigenous term kupa-piti which, according to sources, means either “water well”, or “hole in the ground” or “white man’s hole”. The fact remains that it was here, in 1915, that 14-year-old Willie Hutchinson discovered the first opal.

#5

image credit: Channel 4 Documentary/Youtube

However, living in these climatic conditions was for the most part unsustainable. This is why the inhabitants began to take refuge underground, digging more and more until they created real caves dug in the sandstone. These creations have become, over the years, the homes of those who live in Coober Pedy. Underground it was not only easier to cope with the atmospheric conditions, but it was also possible to enjoy a constant temperature and not find yourself in the middle of the devastating sandstorms that often plague the area.

#6

image credit: Lodo27/Wikimedia

No air conditioning and almost no maintenance costs, therefore, for a network of tunnels and underground environments that would give ideas to an underground transport system of a modern city.

#7

image credit: Robert Link/Wikimedia

Of course, among the underground dwellings are the entrances to the opal mines , which makes this place unique to say the least.

#8

image credit: Dpulitzer/Wikimedia

However, despite its extreme features, Coober Pedy also offers several amenities. From schools to hotels, including churches, jewelry stores, museums, bookstores and even a swimming pool: everything is strictly “buried”.

#9

image credit: Channel 4 Documentary/Youtube

A real dystopian setting, which is certainly capable of arousing the curiosity and perhaps even apprehension of many people.

#10

image credit: Tony Hisgett/Wikimedia

Of course, Coober Pedy isn’t the best place for those with claustrophobia, but let’s face it: a place like this is truly fascinating , for better or for worse.

#11

image credit: Phil Whitehouse/Wikimedia

Would you be ready to take a tour or stay there?

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