Australia’s harsh and remote outback can be unforgiving, but it can also be rewarding. As the fifth season of Discovery’s hit series Outback Opal Hunters draws to a close.
Tune in this Thursday to see one team’s hard work rewarded with a massive payday.
In the thrilling season finale, the extreme becomes extraordinary for Pete Cooke and Sam Westra from Lightning Ridge, NSW when they unearth a unique double-faced black opal nobby valued at $120,000 – the most valuable single piece of opal uncovered in the series to date.
After three dismal months of losing money, Pete and Sam’s entire season rests on four tonnes of stone from their 100-year-old open cut mine, ‘Old Nobbys’. As they sift through the rocks, there are some promising little gems, before a landmark moment when Pete discovers the stone.
Dubbed ‘Fire and Ice’ by Pete due to its brilliant flashes of red and deep blue, the 9-gram double-sided black nobby sees the team hit their stride. Although initially valued at $55,000 on camera, the teams later met with an opal carver and doubled the value of the stone to an impressive $120,000. This follows a $49,000 black nobby the pair found in Episode 2.
For 21-year-old Sam Westra and his mentor Pete Cooke it’s a life-changing discovery.
“We’ve got what we call the ‘king stone’, the best stone in our parcel. And these come up two or three times in a lifetime, if you’re lucky,” says Pete.
For other crews of Outback Opal Hunters, the struggle persists, while for a few there are little victories along the way. Unfortunately for The Bushmen – Rod Manning & Les Walsh (Sheepyards, NSW) battling dangerous floods was only the start of their problems this season. In a race to the finish line, it’s about riches versus safety for this team, while for The Boulder Boys – Aaron Grotjahn & Ron Selig (Opalton, QLD) it’s a race against time and diesel.
The Young Guns – Jaymin Sullivan, Noah McDonough & James ‘JC’ Caruana (White Cliffs, NSW) set out with a full arsenal of mining machinery for the first time this season, finding crystal seam opal valued at $32,000. But their new equipment proved too powerful for their old mine already at risk of collapse. Getting access to a new mine is a costly and time-consuming exercise – will they be able to pull it off? And it’s also a case of man versus machine for The Cheals – father and sons Chris, Oscar, and Rory Cheal with family friend Farren Lamb (Lightning Ridge, NSW) when crucial machinery is too big to execute their dream.
New team The Blacklighters – Paul Coon, Mark I’Anson & John Nassar (Coober Pedy, SA) found 232 grams of sellable opal valued at $116,000 at the start of the season, with their giant, custom-made noodling machine “Opalzilla” living up to its name. Will their gamble on a new claim show good ground?
With 90 percent of the world’s opal found in the Australian outback, and worth up to 500 times more than gold, a single piece can fetch a million dollars.
Outback Opal Hunters is produced by Prospero Productions for Discovery with assistance of the State Government of Western Australia, Screenwest and Lotterywest. To date, the series has entertained audiences in more than 100 countries and territories, including the US and the UK.
Outback Opal Hunters – Season Final airs Thursday 26th November at 7:30pm on Discovery
Discovery is available in Australia on Foxtel and Fetch platforms