THE HISTORY SURROUNDING COOBER PEDY
Ancient History Approximately 150 million years ago, the ocean covered the Coober Pedy region. As the sea water receded, climatic changes caused the lowering of the underground water tables. Silica solutions were carried down to deposit in cavities, faults and fractures in the ground and now, millions of years later, these silica solutions have formed into opal.
Aboriginal History For thousands of years, Aboriginal people walked across this area. Living in a desert environment, the people were nomadic hunters and gatherers who travelled constantly in search of food and water supplies, as well as to attend traditional ceremonies. In June 1975, the Coober Pedy Aboriginal Community adopted the name “Umoona”, meaning “long life” – the name also used for the “Umoona” or mulga tree; a common tree in this area.
Recent History Coober Pedy was originally known as the Stuart Range Opal Field, named after John McDouall Stuart who, in 1858, was the first European explorer to visit the area. In 1920 a new name was needed so a post office could be established, Stuart Range being unsuitable owing to the similarity to Stewart Range in Western Australia.
At a Progress Committee meeting the opal miners chose Coober Pedy, an Aboriginal term meaning white man in a hole.