This Australian Town Was Built Underground Because of the Heat

In the middle of Australia, there’s a place where people live, worship, and shop underground.

A bookstore in Coober Pedy, Australia. Photo: Flickr

The town is sometimes referred to as the “opal capital of the world” because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. The name “Coober Pedy” comes from the an Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means “whitefellas’ hole”.

The town Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called “dugouts”, which are built in this fashion due to the scorching daytime heat.

Some ‘dugouts’ from outside. Photo: hmorandell
An underground jewellery shop in Coober Pedy. Photo: Lodo27

While Aboriginal people have long inhabited the area, miners first moved to Coober Pedy in 1916 after the discovery of opal in the surrounding rocks.

As a result of the intense heat, a number of miners living in town have chosen to live underground, either in the beginnings of old mines or in purpose-dug underground houses.

Kitchen of an underground dwelling in Coober Pedy. Photo: Spersephone

This has continued with much of the modern town being built underground. Among the local public buildings found underground are three churches, a bookstore, an art gallery, a bar, and hotels.

Coober Pedy eglise. Photo: Werner Bayer
A room in a Coober Pedy hotel. Photo: swampa

Opals can be seen embedded in the walls of some of these hotel rooms.

Photo: James St. John

The area doesn’t support much life. It’s basically the middle of a desert. The Middle of A is…

Coober Pedy from above. Source

It’s so much a desert, the first “tree” in town was welded together from scrap iron.

The metal tree can still be seen on a hill overlooking the town.

The only tree in Coober Pedy. Photo: bigwinch360

In the summer, daytime temperatures in town get so high that most sporting activities take place at night. Golf played with glowing balls is a popular pastime.

The town’s surreal landscape, made even stranger by the mining efforts, has made it an attractive location for Hollywood filmmakers. Coober Pedy has appeared in a number of movies, including “Pitch Black”, “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” and “Red Planet”.

And most of those movie scenes included footage of a weird place in town. A very weird one. I mean, look at this. This eccentric cave dwelling is bizarre even by the standards of a subterranean town.

Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest & Dugout. Photo: doctor_k_karen

Captain Harry’s former home is unmistakable, even among the myriad of structures that are built into the cliff-sides and ground due to the intolerable heat in the region.

The titular captain was actually a crocodile hunter during his life before settling down in Coober Pedy.

Captain Harry during office hours. Source

A notorious personality in the town, Harry was well known for both his insane dugout and for his love of women. The iconoclastic rake died in 2006.

Harry claimed her was a Latvian baron who had been in hiding since World War II.

Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest & Dugout. Photo: doctor_k_karen

Luckily, Captain Harry’s home is still there. It has been turned into an attraction for the small number of toursists who visit the remote town.

The walls of Harry’s dugout are covered in all manner of recovered knick-knacks and tribal graffiti, some placed by visitors, but most installed by himself. Many visitors have left their own messages on the rounded walls and ceilings and many of the women who visited while Harry lived say that he would request a little ribald contact for the honor.

Harry’s bedroom. Photo: Carnival

One must be careful in Coober Pedy, however. The area around the town is riddled with pits and caverns dug in search of opals. This is especially true at night when one is out playing a round of glowing golf.

Here’s what growing up at this remote place actually looks like:

One wonders why Star Wars wasn’t filmed at this location. It has it all.

But is this a future for us all? It could be, considering the speed at which we’re wrecking our planet.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


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