Coober Pedy: The extreme town where people live underground
3:33

Coober Pedy: The extreme town where people live underground

Science
[MUSIC] [MUSIC] << When I first got to Cooper Pedy, I had no idea what to expect. This is a town in the middle of the Australian desert. It's eight hours drive to the nearest city. I had to take two flights to get there. And when I was flying in, it's kinda like flying into mauze. Everywhere you look, there's just read dust just about as far as the eye can see. And the whole landscape is dotted with these piles of dirt kind of like anthills. Coober Pedy's a mining town so all those piles of dirt just lift over the dirt from mine shafts But it's not just about mining here. In summer, it gets insanely hot. And in winter, when I visited, I was absolutely freezing. So most of the town is actually built underground, to escape these extremes. And all I could think about was, how do people actually live here, how do people survive? And I guess most importantly, how do you get tech to work when you're in the middle of the Australian outback and you're living underground? So more than half a town lives in dugouts which is the name for these homes built inside the sand stone into the rock and they blow them out with explosives. They dig them out with excavators. And there kind of like rabbit warrens. The rooms are kind of circular, they have round ceilings, they round every which way into the rock. There's really no consideration for architecture but the cool thing is that they don't need air conditioning or climate control because when you build into the rock the rooms stay cool all year round. The only thing they need is really basic ventilation. So that's just as simple as a tube that runs up to the ground above and keeps air flowing into the house. It's amazing. [MUSIC] So [UNKNOWN] looks like something out of the Flintstones. But I was really surprised that the townspeople actually use a lot of tech. They use things like wi-fi hotspots to stay connected under ground and Australia's national broadband network has started installing satellites so people can get internet in their underground homes. There's plumbing and electricity like any normal house and often the people who build these house wire the electricity in themselves, stringing the wire over the rock [MUSIC] The whole town is completely off the electricity grid, so while they used to have to rely on diesel generators and diesel trucked in from out of town, now they have this big renewable project that has brought wind turbines and solar meaning they can power the town with renewables. The whole town was built on opal mining and people actually still mine there, so they have these converted trucks called blowers that suck dirt out of the ground. They blast out mine shafts with explosives and they still go over rock seams, digging out opals by hand. They finish the opals by hand, too. They cut and polish them into these beautiful iridescent gem stones that look kinda like shards of rainbow. [UNKNOWN] is like something from a completely different world. People living hundreds of miles from anywhere in the middle of the outback in the mist extreme conditions. And yet somehow this community survived by juryrigging tech to work for them. It's kind of like something from Mad Max. There's one last outpost of humanity in the middle of the harsh Australian desert.

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