Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Deanne from Sydney. Deanne Wonders, “Where is Coober Pedy?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Deanne!
Would you live in a desert? Where would you find water? Would you find new plants and animals? How would you handle the hot days and cold nights?
In South Australia, a desert town called Coober Pedy is over 500 miles from the nearest city. Around 3,500 people live in Coober Pedy, and many travelers pass through the town each year. However, most people who travel through Coober Pedy never see it!
How could that be? You might think people must not be looking closely if they're missing a whole town. Don't they see the houses, stores, and other buildings? The reason people don't see Coober Pedy is that it's underground!
Why is Coober Pedy underground? It began in 1915 when miners found opals in the area. Opals are rare gemstones, so many people went to Coober Pedy hoping to find them and make money. People came from all over Australia to mine for opal. Some of them became rich, but many people found no gemstones at all.
Regardless of whether they found opals, the people who moved to Coober Pedy knew it was difficult to live there. During the summer, the temperature rises as high as 113° Fahrenheit (45° Celsius). At night, the temperature drops rapidly, often below freezing. There are few trees for shade, and the closest water source is 15 miles (25 km) away.
The people who live in Coober Pedy do their best to make living conditions more bearable. Early miners dug holes in the sandstone hillsides to create homes away from the harsh weather. They call these homes "dugouts." Today, most Coober Pedy residents live in these underground houses. The dugouts are just like houses above ground. They have bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. One woman's dugout even has a swimming pool!
It isn't only the houses that are underground in Coober Pedy. The people who live there also enjoy underground pool halls, churches, and bookstores. However, Coober Pedy citizens still need to come above ground occasionally. The town's school and its two grocery stores are all above ground.
Today, the Coober Pedy economy relies just as much on tourism as it does on opal mining. Visitors to Coober Pedy can book an underground room from the city's hotel for the local experience. There is even a full underground museum to visit!
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live underground, just ask someone who lives in Coober Pedy. This town might be the perfect place for your next vacation - if you can find it!