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Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in the Outback of South Australia. It is approximately 850 kilometres north of Adelaide and 690 kilometres south of Alice Springs. The town is recognised as the largest producer of opals in the world - an estimated 70 per cent of the world's supply of the precious stone comes from the minefields around Coober Pedy.

Opals were first discovered in Coober Pedy in 1915 by teenager Willie Hutchinson who was accompanying his father on a trip prospecting for gold. After World War One, many returned soldiers settled in Coober Pedy and began building the underground dwellings known as 'dugouts' for which the town is now famous. The dugouts were modelled on the trenches that many lived in on the battlefields of Europe. The desert environment is a harsh dry one with extremely hot and cold temperatures, so about 80 per cent of the current population live underground where the temperature is said to remain constant at around 23 degrees celsius. When Coober Pedy was first settled, water had to be transported great distances, but now comes from an underground supply just north of the town. The town has a population of 3,500 and is one of the most multicultural in Australia. An estimated 45 nationalities are represented in the community.

The name Coober Pedy is thought to be an anglicised form of the Aboriginal words 'kupa piti', commonly translated as 'white man in a hole'. Features of the town include a grassless golf course and several underground churches.

Coober Pedy
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