almost half way round the world, across the wide Pacific to South Australia,
from the heavily timbered hills to the flat semi-deserts, a dry land
of sunshine, sand and cold southerly winds. Near Adelaide, where the
earliest definite discovery was made, we travel northwest across the
continent to the shores of the Indian Ocean, then east to Queensland
and down to White Cliffs in New South Wales to Lightning Ridge, to the
center of the great "out-back".
finding of opal in Australia was in Tarrawilla near Angaston about some
fifty miles from Adelaide and over a hundred years ago in 1849. Over
the next 60 years, numerous types of opal were discovered in such towns
as Coober Pedy and Andamooka. As the land began to be settle, miners
travel north-west through South Australian into Queensland and New South
Wales to find many other types of opals including rare black opals.
Pictured on the left is an ariel view of Lightning Ridge, Australia.
In the same way as Lightning Ridge had developed and supplied the world-wide
demand for opal while White Cliffs was failing, so Coober Pedy took
over as the Ridge was dying down.
at left is the Umoona Museum, a complex that is wholly underground and
contains a museum of the development of European settlement in Coober
Pedy including all aspects of opal mining and Aboriginal culture and
local art and crafts. An underground tea and coffee room and an extensive
opal display and showroom feature opals from all regions of Australia.
Of all the
opal mining towns in Australia there is none quite like Coober Pedy.
It is, for starters, much larger than other notable places like White
Cliffs, Lightning Ridge or Andamooka and it is this size which has produced
a diversity of people and activities guaranteed to keep the visitor
engrossed for at least a day. There's the grassless golf course, the
underground church, the noodling for gems on mullock heaps, the tourist
shops, the expensive and sophisticated accommodation, the mixture of
nationalities, the frenetic searching for wealth. And all this is set
against a backdrop of one of the harshest environments in Australia.
About 80 per cent of the population of Coober Pedy now live underground.
The reason for this is that the temperature can rise to 50°C in summer
and it has been known to rise to 60°C. To most outsiders the idea of
living underground sounds terribly primitive.
per cent of the population of Coober Pedy now live underground. The
reason for this is that the temperature can rise to 50°C in summer and
it has been known to rise to 60°C. To most outsiders the idea of living
underground sounds terribly primitive.Shafts are dug into the ground
vertically down to the “opal dirt” level , commonly a large drill is
used and a hole could be dug to a depth of 20~40 feet.. Once the vertical
shaft has been dug a further tunnel is dug horizontally to follow along
the opal level , this is known as a drive.