Andamooka
Collage of Andamooka.

Andamooka is an old South Australian mining town and these days the locals are likely to be working for the uranium concerns, at nearby Olympic Dam and Roxby Downs, rather than gouging for opal.

The majority of Andamooka's roads are dirt, which blend in nicely to the moonscape that is typical of opal towns. Compared to gold, opal production in Australia was a late arrival, with many locations only being discovered in the early 1900's. The architecture of the gold towns often consisted of elaborate stone buildings with impressive columns and detailed corbelling. Opal towns, with a 'poor relation' image, managed with corrugated iron, hessian and whatever was at hand. Dugouts, holes in the ground and old shafts could all serve as a dwelling, not only to escape the ferocious summer heat, but also as a quick way of building an abode so miners could get on with more important tasks such as scouring the ground for opal. The disparity between gold and opal is plainly seen when comparing mining towns. Opal tends to leave a place with a temporary 'feel', as if no one expected to be here long.

Opal towns leave an immediate scar on the countryside. The ravaged diggings of opal miners combined with the roughly thrown together shanty's and shacks, creates a fleeting, desolate landscape. It also creates places of unique character and Andamooka is just that.

As part of 'The Flinders Ranges and Outback' region, Andamooka has a typical desert type weather pattern. Enduring a miserly 190mm of rain a year the place is also capable of producing scorching summer temperatures. Record highs get close to 50°C with much of the summer months hovering around 40°. Typically, winter can get bitterly cold.

Andamooka escaped much of the bureaucracy and regulation that arrives with development. During the boom years between the 1930's and 1960's Andamooka grew without any real purpose. With no shire council to impose a building code (or some of the nicer amenities like regulated electricity and water) the town fashioned itself however it pleased, with additions to buildings occurring ad hoc and the construction of town roads requiring a simple pass with some earthmoving machinery. Perhaps it is this pandemonic development that gives Andamooka it's unique character.

Places like Andamooka don't have to try hard to be part of 'The Outback', they just are. People living here don't need to proclaim - 'we live in the outback'. It's simply 'the bush' or 'the scrub' and Andamooka has no pretences about trying to be something it isn't. It's just a remote, dry location resting on marginal land that came into being due to a lucky opal discovery. For no other reason would anyone choose to site a settlement in such a place.


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