White Man in a Hole

 

In the local aboriginal dialect, Coober Pedy, the name given to the opal mining town that emerges out of nowhere on the Stuart Highway, the long desert road between secular Adelaide and mystical Ayers Rock in South Australia—means ‘White Man in a Hole’. Aboriginal art is always painted from above where the spirit of things can be captured. While this namesake could be a euphemism for something a little more sinister, on the ground, this is exactly what Coober Pedy is, and from the air, this is exactly what Coober Pedy looks like—a series of white anthill-like mounds littering an otherwise characterless landscape. It’s like a vision from the Mad Max movies (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was filmed here) with ‘white men’, and women, working, living and surviving industrially inside those holes. Migrating to this far-away place to spend a life underground digging for what the silica minerals in an ocean 150 million years ago left behind: precious cosmic-looking opal gemstones, is a journey the non-aboriginal populace come here from all over the world to do.