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The Discovery of Opal
In January 1915 – 100 years ago – a small group of men named the New Colorado Prospecting Syndicate had unsuccessfully been searching for gold just south of Coober Pedy.
On February 1, they had set up camp and were searching for water when the 15 year-old (William Hutchison) son of one of the men found pieces of surface opal. Eight days later, the first opal claim was pegged.
Due to lack of water and the extreme heat, the party left on February 18th and headed to William Creek. A few months later, the O’Neill brothers & Fred Blakeley arrived and became the earliest opal mining pioneers and introduced the unique method of living underground in “dugouts”. The flies were bad and there were no building materials.
In 1917, the Trans Continental Railway was completed and a number of construction workers came to the opal fields. They were followed by soldiers returning from the First World War. Conditions were harsh and water and provisions had to be carted great distances and under very trying conditions.