Australia So Much to See

 

Want to know more? Ask us
< Previous
travasmtc2009a029004.gif
Next page >
Home
Travelogues
Tips and Hints
Lists and Links
Q & A
Contact
< Previous
travasmtc2009a029004.gif
Next page >
Home
Travelogues
Tips and Hints
Lists and Links
Q & A
Contact
Home > Travelogues > 2009 Travelogues Index > Darwin
Continue reading >

Back to top ^

Darwin, Northern Territory

West of the Kakadu National Park boundary for some way it is Military land, with numerous warning signs.  We drove into Leaning Tree Lagoon Nature Reserve intending to stay overnight, but found no camping signs, so due to the recent changes we were unable to stay.  Part of the Marrakai Floodplains, in the wet season the lagoon drains into the Adelaide River via the Marrakai Creek. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When built in 1974, the Casuarina Shopping Centre was said to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.  Now it only ranks as the largest in the Northern Territory with around 200 shops.

 

There was so much more we could have seen and done in Darwin, but three days in any city is more than enough for us, and we were keen to move on to other exciting places. 

After failing to have a satisfactory telephone conversation with reception at our chosen caravan park due to reception drop outs, we drove on into Darwin.  We were lucky and were given a roomy site with suitable access in an otherwise fairly full caravan park.  This was to be our base for a few days while having maintenance done, sightseeing and shopping in Darwin.  For a park just off the Stuart Highway and in close proximity to the airport, it was surprisingly quiet.  This centrally sited caravan park has since closed.

 

There was a little water left in the centre of the lagoon, lots of snowflake lilies, and a greater variety of birds than we saw at Mamukala Wetlands.  Around Humpty Doo and onwards to the Stuart Highway, there were Mango Farms and a number of new residential subdivisions.  In 1954 rice growing was trialled in the area with the Fogg Dam being built for irrigation.  Rice growing failed, but mango farming has been very successful.  Fogg Dam is now a Conservation Reserve and bird watching locality. 

 

Our first stop was in central Darwin to tour the underground fuel storage facilities built during WWII.  Japanese air raids of 19th February 1942, 16th March 1942 and 16th June 1942 destroyed seven of the eleven above-ground oil storage tanks that were located on Stokes Hill Wharf.  Commencing in 1943, five # tunnels were built at the great expense of 1.5 million pounds, but were never used as the war ended shortly after they were built.  Only two are open to the public, and the location of some still remains a secret.  The following website details that only five of the proposed eight # planned were built: OzAtWar   Two are underneath the present day Parliament House.  The two near the wharf were opened to the public in 1992, fifty years after the bombing of Darwin.  A photographic display of war time photos is on display along the entire length of the 171 metre long tunnel number 5.  The rusted floor has been removed.  Its capacity was 3.8475 million litres.  Tunnel number 6 is 78 metres in length and has a capacity of 1,755 million litres.  Both tunnels are 4.5 metres in width and five metres high.  See more about the construction from historian Doug Tilley.

 

Port Darwin was named by Lieutenant Stokes of the British Navy in September 1839 in honour of his friend Charles Darwin.  Thirty years later George Goyder arrived to establish a settlement in the north of Australia and the current site was selected. The port was used to supply the new settlement of Palmerston (now the city centre of Darwin). 

 

A defence build up in Darwin commenced as early as the 1920s with the construction of nine naval oil storage tanks carrying 63,400 tonne of oil being completed by 1941. At that time Australia had been at war in Europe and the Middle East for two years. 

 

With an increased naval presence already in place, and the establishment of coastal guns, Larrakeyah Barracks, the worldís longest boom net to prevent submarines from entering the harbour, hospitals, anti-aircraft defences and RAAF squadrons, Darwin was assuming a role as a strategic base for the defence forces. 

 

With the entry of Japan into the war in December 1941, a general evacuation of woman, children, aged and infirm began. 

 

On 15th February 1942 a convoy of ships carrying troops to reinforce Timor left Darwin.  They came under heavy attack and returned the next day. 

 

On 19th February 1942, Japanese headed towards Darwin with 81 medium bombers, 71 dive bombers and 36 fighters.  There were at least 45 vessels in the harbour at that time and 21 were sunk or disabled.  Many buildings, including those on the airfield and the Darwin Post Office were amongst those destroyed during the first air raid; the Post Office was on the site where Parliament House now stands.  Twice as many bombs were dropped on Darwin than were dropped on Pearl Harbour ten weeks prior, in two waves that morning.  At least 292 people were killed with hundreds more injured. 

 

These unexpected raids shocked the nation, although the magnitude of the damage was censored. 

 

By late 1942, there were 60,000 troops based in the Northern Territory.  Darwin sustained at least 62 more air raids to 12th November 1943, but none so severe as on the first day. 

 

From signage at Survivors Lookout

From these tunnels, a series of steps goes to Survivorís Lookout on the Esplanade, overlooking Stokes Hill Wharf and in close proximity to Government House, Parliament House and a number of other historic buildings.  Plaques and photographs tell the story of the bombing of Darwin in 1942. 

Underneath the wings of the B52 and all around are other planes and air force memorabilia and history outlines.  All in all an interesting and enlightening day learning about the war history of Australian forces. 

 

The following day we went to the Aviation Heritage Centre near the airport, where a massive USA B52 bomber dominates the display shed.  In 1965, B52s commenced operation in Vietnam during the Vietnam War which ran between 1955 and 1975.  Australia did not send troops to join the US forces until 1962. 

travasmtc2009a029001.jpg tn_leaningtreelagoon.jpg

There was a large wetlands area as we approached the Adelaide River, with the Window on the Wetlands Centre on a small hill. We chose not to stop, as we needed to find a place for a few nights in Darwin and it was already well into the afternoon. 

 

Jumping Crocodile boat tours also start from this point.  We chose not to patronise these tours.  See why in Crocodiles here.  Seeing crocodiles hunting the wild at Cahillís Crossing was more appealing to us anyway. 

 

 

 

 

tn_fueltunnels5.jpg tn_fueltunnels4.jpg tn_fueltunnels3.jpg tn_fueltunnels2.jpg tn_fueltunnels1.jpg tn_fueltunnels6.jpg tn_stokeshillharbour.jpg tn_survivorslookout.jpg tn_darwinavi1.jpg tn_darwinavi9.jpg tn_darwinavi8.jpg tn_darwinavi7.jpg tn_darwinavi6.jpg tn_darwinavi5.jpg tn_darwinavi4.jpg tn_darwinavi3.jpg tn_darwinavi2.jpg
Stokes Hill oil tanks ablaze
POWs return 1945
Stokes Hill ablaze
Post Office hit 19/2/1942
Cleaning up Police barracks following 19/2/1942 raids
Lucky escape for pilot at Coomalie 9/1944
 
Oil tanks 19/2/1942
 
Floating Dock undamaged
 
PEARY sinks
 
NEPTUNA ablaze, CAMILLA in foreground
 
Crater in Esplanade
Darwin ablaze
Destruction at RAAF
A massive B52 bomber dominates the display
Bombs over Darwin painted by James Baines together with wreckage of a Japanese Mitsubishi shot down on Melvile Island during the first air raid on Darwin
Grey Nurse - A spitfire Replica. 
CAC Avon Sabre.  This aircraft is a composite of two different model of Sabre
Dassault Mirage was a front line fighter from the early 1960s to 1989
Floating Dock undamaged
 
Destruction at RAAF
Stokes Hill oil tanks ablaze
Wasp Air Buggy Grycopter home built from a kit and donated to the museum in 2003.  Rotor blades are shorter for display purposes

Read about the World War II air raids on Australia from Wikipedia

The loss of life on this first day of air raids was dramatically understated in the media, with press releases listing some of the property damage and saying that a few lives had been lost.  Any claims made by the Japanese were censored from publication. 

Although we are usually not keen to visit capital cities when caravanning, Darwin was one we really wanted to see.  First we had a few more sights to see along the road from Kakadu.  We had planned to spend a night at a Lagoon along the way so we could reach Darwin early in the day to have a better chance of finding a suitable place in a caravan park without a booking as it was peak season.  
 
Copyright (C) 2013 AustraliaSoMuchtoSee.com. All rights reserved