Human beings are able to establish homes in some of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth. From the frozen tundras of the far north to the dense and dangerous forests of the tropics, to ice floes in Antarctica, people have been venturing into unlikely places and laying down roots for thousands of years. Some live in treetops, others in mountains high above the tree line, and some even live underground.
These are the three largest underground communities on (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say in) Earth:
Coober Pedy is the largest underground community in the world, and the only underground community populous enough to call itself a town. Dug into the barren landscape of South Australia, one of the driest regions on earth, Coober Pedy is home to one of the biggest opal deposits ever discovered. When early settlers first began mining the precious gemstones back in the 1970s, they found the summertime heat unbearable, and began digging their homes into the nearby hillside for relief from the sun. Now––with summertime temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius––their unique underground town stays a comfortable 24 degrees all year round. Since the area became a popular tourist destination in the 1980s, it has continued to expand, and now features a number of unique underground churches and hotels.
Photo Credit: expom2uk
Photo Credit: Rob & Jules
Photo Credit: Paleontour
In the Mojave Desert outside Barstow––not far from Los Angeles, California––a luxury underground community development has just been completed. This 135-person bomb shelter/disaster bunker was originally built by AT&T in 1965, to protect local telecom networks from the threat of nuclear attack. But a recent overhaul has successfully transformed the shelter into a surprisingly elegant, albeit compact, living space, which the builder compares to cruise ship accommodations. For 100 square feet of subterranean real estate, prospective residents will have to invest $50,000 per person.
There is currently a 5000-person applicant list, which is being vetted to determine which 135 are best suited for the community—the goal being to have a well-balanced population of technical workers, scientists, doctors, and maintenance workers. Terra Vivos also features a detention centre for unruly residents, an air filtration system for handling chemical attacks, bomb doors capable of withstanding a direct tank blast, and a frozen DNA bank for reseeding the war-ravaged Earth. Now, the only thing needed to make it complete is World War 3 and/or the Zombie Apocalypse.
Not far from luxurious and comfortable Terra Vivos, the Las Vegas Strip forms the ceiling of an entirely different kind of underground community. There are more than 350 miles of flood channels beneath the historically hot and dry Sin City. And Las Vegas is also historically a catch-pool for people who are down on luck. With couches, compact kitchens, beds, bookshelves, makeshift showers, and elaborate permanent living quarters, the storm drains beneath The Strip are home to more than 700 temporary and long-term residents, most of whom make their living as “credit hustlers,” who prowl the slot machine sections of casinos looking for machines with unused credits left by drunken gamblers. The risks of living down here involve disease, deadly Black Widow spiders, and the occasional flood, but residents (many of whom were driven into the drains by gambling or drug addictions) claim it is a close-knit community where people help one another.
From luxurious and superfluous to squalid last resort, underground communities can take many forms. And while most unconventional dwellings involve sacrificing amenities most of us take for granted, living underground means abandoning one of the most basic natural resources of all: sunlight. So it is no wonder all these communities are in deserts, where sunlight occurs in considerable surplus. In any case, the rarity of underground communities like these is a testament to the difficulty of making a home away from the sun.
Contributed by the folks at Policy Expert home insurance.
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