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  • Hey, it's me Destin

  • Welcome Back to SmarterEveryDay.

  • When you think about

  • gemstones people typically have their favourites.

  • I happen to think that opal is one of the most fascinating stones there is.

  • Think about it:

  • If you think about a diamond or a sapphire or even a ruby

  • it's just a coloured rock.

  • Opals are different.

  • Opals are created by specifically stacked hydrated silica spheres

  • that would defract light as it enters the rock

  • and it'll exit as blue, green, or even red.

  • This is fascinating and in order to create something so specific,

  • it requires a very precise geologic condition in order for that to form.

  • So today on SED the question is simple.

  • How do we find an opal if it has to be created under very specific conditions?

  • The answer - we're going to have to to travel to the other side of the world,

  • to one of these specific places that opals are created and find an opal prospecting expert.

  • To find the guy, I flew to Coober Pedy, Australia, which is the opal capital of the world,

  • It looks like Mars - like straight out of 'Mad Max'

  • In fact it is where they filmed 'Mad Max'

  • It's such a harsh environment that people live underground

  • and this sounds like a joke, but you're not supposed to walk backwards at all in the town.

  • Seriously, someone died by falling in a mine shaft a week before I got there.

  • I had no plan when I arrived

  • so I walked straight into the visitors' centre and asked for an opal mining expert.

  • Destin: I am with George... George: Kardeş, kardeş! (brother)

  • Destin: Gar dashy? George: kardeş - means brother!

  • Destin: Kardeş! I'm sorry! George: lol

  • Destin: So he came to Coober Pedy in 1969 and he's been mining his entire life.

  • Today he has agreed to take us out. We're going to go to a working mine?

  • George: Yeah, we'll go to drill for opals with a Caldwell drill, American drill.

  • Destin: Ok, we're going to go use an American drill to drill a shaft down into an opal mine.

  • George: Jawohl! (yes, sir)

  • Destin: This should be awesome, let's go give it a shot.

  • What does that sign say? Hold on, back up. Let me look at that sign.

  • George: That sign says 'Shafts; Danger; Don't walk backwards'.

  • Destin: So everywhere there's a pile of dirt there is a shaft into the ground. How deep will the shaft be.

  • George: This area will be 20 metres (66')

  • Destin: So everywhere I see a pile of dirt there is a 20m shaft?

  • George: Yeah, definitely. Destin: Oh my goodness.

  • But there's also horizontal shafts at the bottom of the vertical shafts right?

  • George: Sorry? Destin: Aren't there also shafts that go side to side?

  • George: No that's tunnels not shafts. Where do you live, Alabama?

  • Destin: Alabama. George: Ahh that's why you don't know...

  • Destin: So if somebody hears you have struck opal, they will come at midnight and try to steal all your opal.

  • George: No no no no, that's another thing, but they try to peg the claim.

  • Destin: What's that word you're using? Pack? George: To peg! To peg! To put the pegs down.

  • Destin: Peg! George: Peeeeeeg!

  • Destin: So they're pegging the claims. George: I am from Greece, my accent is a bit funny.

  • Destin: I'm from Alabama, my accent is a bit funny too. I get it. *brofist* Yes!

  • George: Two tough guys. Destin: Two tough guys in Coober Pedy.

  • George: That's it, we're approaching the drill now. Destin: Oh, this is the drill.

  • George: Ahuh Destin: Oh wow.

  • George: Caldwell. America. It's a bit old but nice, does the job.

  • Destin: Georgie is 70 something years old and he's nimble as a cat. It's crazy.

  • George: Okay! ... Good luck!

  • Destin: Good luck!

  • Destin: Oh, wow. I think I get it.

  • So he only, the butterfly only moves down the length of one bucket every time?

  • Oh, it's hydraulically driven! I get it!

  • Destin: So this drive wheel is called the what? Lady: This one is the ring gear.

  • Destin: So the ring gear drives the butterfly,

  • and these pistons on the side support the weight of the butterfly which holds the bucket?

  • Lady: Yeah, and it lifts up and down giving you the length of one bucket.

  • Destin: That's genius. George: American.

  • Destin: Americans came up with that? That's awesome.

  • The neat thing about how this drill works is that it's very hands-on.

  • As the bucket comes up to the top, George taught me how to connect one cable so a winch

  • can pull the shaft to the side and a second rope so you can release a trip mechanism

  • at the bottom of the bucket to dump the material out.

  • You've got to love people like George - he's mastered this art for himself,

  • and even though there's money in it he's still not stingy with the knowledge that he has gained.

  • For example, in this field he said there's two known depths that contain opal,

  • and the locals know exactly how far down it can be found.

  • They remove the material one bucket at a time and constantly measure the hole

  • to see how far from the opal they are.

  • Once the dirt pile changes from brown to white the depth is confirmed,

  • and then they swarm the pile looking for evidence of opal.

  • Then you actually go down in the hole and you start looking for opal.

  • That's the interesting part. Lets go do that.

  • Destin: The middle of nowhere, must admit I'm a little bit scared that we'll fall in a hole.

  • George: Nah. If you talk so much I get upset. Destin: Haha You get upset?

  • George: Hahahaha Destin: I don't believe that :)

  • George: No, you're my friend; I don't get upset with my friends.

  • Destin: No way.

  • George: Over!

  • Unknown: How 'bout that? George: That'll do. Alright.

  • Unknown: We're good? George: Turn it off. Yeah, very good.

  • Destin: Ok I understand the purpose of the safety rope, it's for if your winch doesn't work?

  • George: I drop it in; I come up. Destin: Yeah you climb up.

  • Wow

  • Destin: Have you ever had to do that?

  • George: Oh, many times

  • Destin: You can still do it?

  • George: So why is the rope for? Destin: lol

  • George: You're joking...

  • D: lol

  • D: Oh man...

  • George: If you're not here I'm by myself.

  • Destin: Nonono, lets go, lets go.

  • George: If we don't come up we stay here all night. Destin: I get it, buddy. Lets roll.

  • Destin: Lets roll, man. I get this.

  • George: Hold this, please... Thank you.

  • George: Hold. You're holding? Control your body with your toes.

  • Destin: Ok. I've got it.

  • Destin: haha, wow.

  • Holy cow,

  • Ok, to review: I met a guy yesterday who took me to a secret hole in the middle of the desert

  • and now he's lowering me into it... on the premise of finding buried treasure.

  • This was approximately the time I realised I should have told any one of these details to my wife.

  • Holy cow, look at this. It's opening up.

  • Oh my gosh,

  • And of course, there's a beer bottle down here.

  • Ok so he said unhook this, then wave the light. That's what he said.

  • So I'm going to wave the light...

  • George: You out!? Destin: I'm out!

  • George: Ok I go.

  • Destin: Once George got to the bottom of the shaft with me,

  • he explained that the drillers ream out the bottom to increase the surface area of the shaft.

  • He then started to legit pick his way through material in different spots based on the colour of the dirt.

  • After about 20 minutes of me being confused, this happened...

  • Do you want me to ah, do you want me to pick for a while?

  • George: (muffled) Yes, if you want to. Destin: I don't know what I'm doing bu-

  • George: Huhuhuhuhuh!

  • HAAH!

  • Destin: what?

  • George: HAAH!

  • Come have a look!

  • You see the colour there,

  • Destin: Where? George: and you tell me...

  • if you see some of the colour.

  • Destin: Right here?

  • Nope, I don't see what you're talking about.

  • George: Ok... Alright... look- Destin: Right here?

  • George: Yeah, spot on! Destin: Are you serious? Right there.

  • Destin: So that's green? George: Yes.

  • Uh

  • Destin: I'm just going to be straight up with you right now,

  • This is pretty dang crazy.

  • We are in the middle of Australia,

  • How far underground are we?

  • George: Not much... Destin: 50 feet underground? (15m)

  • George: Yes.

  • Destin: We went down this hole, and we're excited about this little bitty trace in the ground.

  • Man, people are weird

  • People are weird.

  • Destin: We do this so that - I see green there btw, George: Where?

  • Destin: Right here. There's green right there. You see it?

  • George: Yep.

  • Destin: People are so weird.

  • We're doing this because women like pretty things on their ears.

  • Destin: What do you think? Tara: Yeah they're pretty.

  • Destin: This doesn't make any sense at all.

  • George: Looks a bit of colour there, can you see colour or not?

  • Destin: Ohhhhh. My gosh. I do see it!

  • George: You know what I'm going to do? Destin: What?

  • George: I'm going to get jackpick. You busy?

  • Destin: You're going to go get a jackpick? Lets do it. Bring it.

  • Ok, don't leave me here.

  • (nervous laugh)

  • George: Keep digging. Destin: I'm digging... Ok, I'll dig.

  • annnd...

  • yeah

  • There are moments in your life where you stop and think about how you got to this point

  • that you are, at that moment. This is one of those moments.

  • There's 700 holes that I passed on the way in here, I'm in one of those.

  • The only person who knows which hole I'm in is George, and he just went up that shaft on a rope.