What Lies Beneath: Well, just about all of the 3,500-person population of Coober Pedy, an opal-mining town in South Australia. The town’s name comes from a mispronunciation of an Aboriginal phrase thought to mean “white man in a hole.” Because of outdoor temperatures that climb above 120 degrees, most residents live in underground homes carved into the rock. Shops, churches, hotels, and even a swimming pool make coming up for air unnecessary.
How Did It Get There: The first opal was discovered in the rose-colored sandstone in 1915; the town soon became the world’s opal capital. Discharged World War I soldiers came looking for their big break and would sleep in a dugout. Underground living was born.
Cool Bonus: Coober Pedy can be seen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome; and Wim Wenders’s Until the End of the World.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.