Coober Pedy


1915 a teenager stumbled on the "Surface Opal Nobbies" while gold prospecting with his father.
09-FEB-1915 first mining claim pegged.
1956 the largest precious opal gem in the world named Olympic Australis was found.


The village of Coober Pedy is famous for its opal and the numerous opal mines. Together with two smaller settlements nearby moore than 80% of all opal on earth is mined here. And that is how it became its name: the aborigines were astonished about the strange behaviour of the white men, who dug deep holes into the rock. So they called the place white men in holes, which is Coober Pedy (spelled kupa piti) in their language.

The village was founded as a mining village in 1916, one year after the first opals were found. Willie Hutchinson, a teenager, discovered the first opals in 1915, main street is named after him. He was the youngest member of a group of miners, who searched for gold. He found a so-called floater, a piece of opal which had been lying on the surface for many years, after the surrounding rock had been removed by erosion. Such opals are of low value, as they show traces of the erosion, especially many cracks. In 1916 the first miners moved to this place, and by 1922 there was a small mining town which was named officially by the local Progress and Mining Association. Willie Hutchinson did not see the little community grow, as he died in 1920 on a cattle drive on the Birdsville Track. He drowned in Georgina River.

The miners built their mines into the sandstone, and they soon mentioned, how moderate the climate in the mines was, compared to outside in the desert. The mines were cool at day and warm at night, so they started to live in their self-made caves, so-called dugouts. There is also a story that the first to live underground had been former soldiers from World War I. Used to living in trenches they knew about the climatic advantages.

Today, half of the population of Coober Pedy lives in dugouts. They are cheap to build with the common mining machinery, a fully equiped house costs only between AUD 25,000 and 30,000. And as a result air conditioning is much cheaper. The only drawback is the need for artificial light all day long.

The climate in Coober Pedy is arid, which means its a desert climate. The temperature often rises to 50 °C in summer and sometimes even to 60 °C. The average annual rainfall is 139mm.