Photos of Coober Pedy, the Opal capital of the world, Australia

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Coober Pedy, the Opal capital of the world

Almost 850 kilometres north of Adelaide, on the Stuart Highway, is the town of Coober Pedy, called the “opal capital of the world” because of the quantity of precious opals mined there. As it can get scorching here, many dwellings and even churches are built underground, so-called “dugouts”.

Mine dumps near Coober Pedy
Mine dumps near Coober Pedy
View of Coober Pedy
Umoonasaurus model
Underground house
Bedroom, underground house
Living room, underground house
Mine worker in a shaft
Showing opal deposit
Serbian Orthodox Church
In Serbian Orthodox Church
Window, Serbian Orthodox Church
Catholic Church
Outskirts of Coober Pedy
Catacomb Church
In the Catacomb Church
View, Coober Pedy
Mine passages, opal mine
Old Timer sculpture, opal mine
Underground house, opal mine
Kitchen, opal mine
Bedroom, opal mine
Mine worker, opal mine
View to Coober Pedy

Western Desert Aboriginal people have lived here for a very long time, and the land is considered traditionally that of the Arabana people, although other groups also have associations here. The town’s name, decided upon in 1920, is thought to be derived from “kupa piti”, a word in the Kokatha language, meaning “whitefella - a hole in the ground”, as it was somewhat puzzling to see those Europeans digging holes and then even living in them. In 1975, the local Aboriginal people adopted the name Umoona, which means “long life” for the town, and this name has since been used for various establishments here.

The first opals were found in 1915 by Willie Hutchinson; the town was established after that, and miners moved in a year later. After World War I, returning soldiers sought employment in the opal mines, and after World War II, many refugees, veterans, and immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe came here as well. There is even an underground Serbian Orthodox church in the town. Tourism has developed, with the Umoona Opal Mine & Museum showcasing the mining, dugouts, and underground dwellings. The Old Timers Mine offers a self-guided tour through its passageways and underground dwellings.