Darwin’s WW11 experiences
Over the last couple of days we have been in and out of a number of the Darwin WW11 ‘experiences’. The February 1942 bombing raid by the Japanese, along with Cyclone Tracy, are prominent tourist ‘traps’. The sort of things Australians, rather than foreigners, are ‘supposed’ to see. The foreigners go to Kakadu and other nature based activities. The Aussies seem to want to see old relics and sites from the city’s past. Nothing wrong with that of course, we did it!
But a short interlude, Althego thought it might be good to hire a car for a few days to get around the sites. It seems that hiring a car is like trying to get hotel rooms. All booked out for days in advance. Budget Rentals our next door neighbours said we could have one on 27 May, ten days hence. So the lesson is to book well ahead if you plan in coming to these parts. So we jumped on and off the Big Red Bus to get around to the sites.
We have ‘done’ four of the attractions. All very interesting and bring different perspectives to the story. The Oil Storage Tunnels were built under the Darwin waterfront cliff line following the bombing of the nearby above ground storage tanks. They were horseshoe shaped, concrete formed and steel lined. Most of the tunnels are over 150 metres long and 3 metres or so high. A lot of oil could have been stored in them. They didn’t really work and never held oil. Bit of a lemon it seems, plagued with location, geological and design issues. An interesting walk through them.
The bombing of Darwin Harbour is also featured in the Royal Flying Doctor Service tourist facility on Stokes Wharf. This was quite impressive. A hologram of the Captain of the USS Peary, which was sunk in the harbour, along with some computer animated footage of the attack is quite confronting. There is also an a headphone experience with animations all around you of the attack, puts you in the thick of it. A life size replica of a Zero hangs from the ceiling along with other bits and pieces including a cross section of a Japanese bomb. Down the back the RFDS takes over with their story, including a John Flynn hologram and footage. We have done this story before at Cloncurry and elsewhere, had a look inside one of their planes, quite a set up.
Next port of call was the Territory Museum. This is very good. Excellent display of wildlife and habitats, not overdone with information boards. They have an excellent taxidermist! Very big crocodile on display, Sweetheart. Died while being captured, big fellow that was creating havoc for us humans on the waterways, attacking boats etc. The main thing here for us though was the Cyclone Tracy displays and videos. Very detailed telling of the physical power of this cyclone and the destruction caused on that early Christmas morning in 1974. There is a small room, pitch black darkness, to stand in and hear a recording of the actual storm roaring around and ripping apart buildings. Very unnerving indeed.
The final instalment was at the Military Museum out on East Point. The Darwin bombing experience here was very different to the one at the RFDS. Bit more precision to it all. The main video presentation was a collection of actual footage from the time and included personal reflections of service people and civilians who experienced the action. Numerous people seem to have donated things to the display, illustrating their experiences of the time. It was therefore on a different plane to the RFDS experience. One could be more moved by the drama and their sacrifice. Upon reflection I am not sure which was superior, both have their place I suppose.
On a different note we have had an evening out on the harbour aboard Cape Adieu for a sunset dinner cruise. It is an old converted fishing boat. It leaves from Stokes Wharf and cruises along the harbour front and then back takes about three hours. Plenty of great sea food and views of the city. Quite a good sunset too. Guess is there were about fifty on the boat, spread over three decks. So it was a good laid back experience without crowds of people on a couple of the larger boats that mirror this trip.
We set off tomorrow on the Ghan to Adelaide. Will catch up on the remainder of our time in Darwin when we get there in three days time.