Underground Dwellers – Life Below the Surface

When most people think of home they imagine walking through the front door at ground level, or entering a high rise apartment building. Unknown to many, there are others that take a journey leading down, before they are greeted by the familiar sight of home. These people live in different parts of the world and include:

  1. Las Vegas, USA

Las Vegas glamour and glitz operates above a little known underground city called the “tunnels.” Life in the city is expensive, and most of those living underground have been forced here because of unfortunate circumstances. Many of them have suffered through traumatic events, such as war veterans, drug addicts, or those that have broken down after losing a personal disaster. The residents furnish their ‘bungalows’ with discarded furniture, and make their showers out of water coolers. They also have a section of the community that is dedicated to graffiti art, and the members are encouraged to help beautify their surroundings.

Other large American cities also have underground dwellers, sometimes called ‘mole people.’ The majority of them live in abandoned subways, railroads, bomb shelters and underground tunnels. Even though many of them are living illegally, the societies they create sometimes number in the hundreds.

  1. Beijing, China

Declared illegal in 2010, underground living in this large Chinese city still has in excess of one million people. They live in bomb shelters and basement rooms, where accommodation costs a small percentage of the amount it would above ground. These tenants are called the ‘rat tribe’ and are mostly low budget workers, many of them immigrants. The underground ‘apartments’ are clean, neatly furnished and respectable. The residents consist mainly of couples or single individuals, who work an average of 15 minutes away. The accommodation continues to appeal to the city’s workers, due to the pros of life underground significantly outweighing the cons.

  1. Coober Pedy, Australia

This small town is located in the Southern Australian desert, where daytime temperatures can be as much as 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The first indications that there is a town nearby are signs showing the way to underground bars, churches and restaurants.

Most of Coober Pedy’s residents live in ‘dugouts,’ which are excavated hollows in the sandstones. They give people a reprieve that is necessary to survive from the heat of the desert. The community consists mainly of opal miners, many of which came to the area after WWII. Opal is one of the most valuable gemstones in the world, and many of the underground houses are close to the mines. The first people that settled in the area had served in the war, and were adept at digging and living in trenches. 70% of the world’s opals are found in Coober Pedy, and the industry continues to support the town.

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