Birth Pains: Establishing Darwin
Favorite thing: Let’s start at the start. The Aborigines have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years. Whoever was next to visit is somewhat doubtful, there are suggestions that a Chinese exploration fleet may have reached Australia’s shores in the 1400s. I rather believe that the Portuguese, great sailors and explorers, would have looked around in the 1500s - especially as their colony in Timor was a relative swim across the ocean and the Macassan fishermen were visiting from about that time: but the Portuguese were secretive and left few records. There is no doubt the Dutch visited in 1606 and their later explorers named Arnhem Land in 1623. Even the French, on lengthy scientific and exploratory voyages, travelled around the coasts in the early 1800s.
The British, focussed on asserting their colonial claims to the entire continent, were keen to pre-empt any other national aspirations, so establishing a colony at Australia’s “Top End” became a priority. In doing so, they ran into far more difficulties than they had to the south. Here’s the list of failed attempts at a colony:
● Fort Dundas, established on Melville Island in 1824 and abandoned in 1828
● Fort Wellington, at Raffles Bay, lasted only from 1827 to 1829
● Fort Victoria on the Cobourg Peninsula came closest to success, but still lasted only from 1838 to 1849.
● A settlement was established at Escape Cliffs, 75km from the present Darwin, in 1864 – it lasted only until 1867.
All the previous attempts to establish a colony had been military. In 1869 the new colony of Palmerston (later renamed Darwin) was established. South Australia had assumed responsibility for the north from New South Wales in 1863 and needed an administrative centre. The Palmerston colony (nothing to do with the new Darwin suburb of Palmerston) took on more significance in 1872 when the Overland Telegraph was built and an undersea cable connected Australia via Darwin to the rest of the world.
Fondest memory: Nothing remains of the first settlements and the ruins of Fort Victoria are quite inaccessible. Fortunately, on our trip through Arnhem Land we were able to see the marker cairn at Smith Point on the Cobourg Peninsula, erected in the 1840s to warn shipping headed for Fort Victoria of the location of a dangerous reef.
- Historical Travel
Blown Away - Darwin in WW2
Favorite thing: By the 1930s, Darwin had grown to a population of several thousand. Gold and other minerals had been discovered inland when the northern railway was built, there was a meatworks and a pearling fleet, and the first aviators had established it as an important aerodrome. With the global political situation becoming more shaky, the Government began to develop a military base there.
Australia will never forget the 19th of February, 1942, because that was when two Japanese air raids virtually levelled the township - the first ever foreign attack on Australia. In the first, 188 aircraft (more than at Pearl Harbour, and from the same carrier group) arrived in the morning. 21 ships were sunk or badly damaged in the harbour, most of the wharves were destroyed and much of the town was levelled. Most casualties were sailors on shipping, but a direct hit killed all 9 staff of the Post Office and the explosion of a munitions ship killed 22 wharf labourers. The little aerial defence consisted of eleven American P40 Kittyhawks, by chance at the airport while in transit elsewhere. Five were able to become airborne for the first attack, but none remained for the second attack of 54 bombers several hours later. Fortunately, with the Japanese advance southwards, the Government had earlier initiated a civilian withdrawal (the last left by air the day before the air raids), leaving only about 2000 civilians in town.
There were the first of a total of 65 air raids on Darwin, the last occurring late in 1943. By then, Darwin was no longer the ‘front line’, but it remained a major military base and staging post – and the war remains one of the defining events of the town’s history. Information plaques such as in the photos are located at several places in the city.
- Historical Travel
Blown Away again: Cyclone Tracey
Favorite thing: I’ve mentioned that Darwin is very tropical. That unfortunately means it is in the climatic region frequented in the “Wet” by tropical cyclones (also, in some regions, known as hurricanes or typhoons). Cyclones pass through the region yearly, usually offshore and with little effect.
Cyclone Tracey was not a lady though – at Category 4 she provided Darwin’s second defining event. She arrived on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1974, with the 8km diameter eye passing right across the city. Winds were estimated to have reached 280 km/hr, but the Weather Bureau’s anemometer was destroyed before the peak. At the time, Darwin had a population of about 48,000 people living in 12000 houses – it is estimated that only 400 houses escaped undamaged, with most totally destroyed. Evacuations reduced the post-Tracey population to about 6,000 but most of the city was rebuilt by 1978 and population growth resumed, with self-government for the Northern Territory also achieved in 1978.
The first of my photos, taken of a photo in an insurance company window, shows the typical damage to a typical Darwin house such as in my previous tip. The second photo, from an explanatory public sign, shows the effect spread over an entire suburb, with debris everywhere and all trees stripped back to bare trunks. Tracey levelled the city more effectively than had the Japanese! Luckily, casualties were fairly low as many people were away for holidays at the time and the cyclone traversed the city at night, when few were in the streets. The third photo is of an information sign, illustrating the changes in Darwin’s population since the 1930s – sorry about the shadows!
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: I’ve mentioned in my 'Introduction' page that Darwin sprawls. That results partly from the city’s layout. The old part of the city is on the peninsula near the wharves, and several suburbs are nearby. But substantial amounts of land are occupied by defence facilities and the airport is to the north – so the suburbs continue beyond the airport and a new suburban area, called Palmerston, is situated away to the east.
After the havoc caused by Cyclone Tracey, most suburban housing is relatively new, though some older style houses have been rebuilt with appropriate reinforcement should another large cyclone come along. The suburbs seem to be expanding with the population, but what really struck me was the booming construction of inner-city apartments. These would have been unimaginable only a few years ago, but I presume they are a reflection of affluence resulting from the resources boom in the Territory, coupled with changing lifestyles which place more emphasis on social interaction than on the traditional “house and garden”. Alongside the city, a new prestige area has sprung up around the marina at Cullen Bay (14 on the map). Meanwhile, both the government and private developers are spending heaps to develop the area between the city and the old wharves for ‘harbourside living’.
Main photo: Darwin map
Second photo:New apartments springing up
Third photo:Old and new Darwin
Fourth photo:Upmarket mansions, Cullen Bay marina
Fifth photo:New Cullen Bay apartments loom over the marina.
Shopping in suburban Darwin
Favorite thing: Tourists don’t travel to the “Top End” to see suburban Darwin, so I suspect fairly few visit these areas. On the other hand, there is little reason for most Darwin residents to visit the city area, unless their employment is there. The result seems to be a distinct separation into “two Darwins”, one inhabited by transient backpackers and tourists, the other by the “locals”.
Because we were off to the “VT Survivor” trip, we had some heavy-duty shopping to arrange before we left: things such as buying camping chairs, not to mention a seeming mountain of groceries (most of which we used). So we took our vehicles to one of the main shopping malls, at Casuarina in the “Northern Suburbs” (at 2 near top of the map with preceding tip).
As we drove through the suburbs, and also at the shopping mall area, I gained the distinct impression that the “suburban Darwin” is distinctly more akin to the rest of Australia than the impressions given by the city area. Inside the shopping mall, apart from less emphasis on winter clothing, we could have been in any other Australian city – much the same ‘feel’, much the same shops from the usual chains. We all lunched there – the standard “shopping mall” catering applied.
But ….Have you ever felt intimidated by women in shopping malls pushing shopping trollies? If you have, don’t get in the way of a team of VT ladies on a “Survivor” grocery-buying trip! LOL
Main photo: Approaching the Casuarina shopping mall
Second photo:Casuarina shops
Third photo:Heading into the shops
Fourth photo:”The list says we still need…”
Fifth photo:Beware teams of VTers with shopping trollies!
- Food and Dining
AAT Kings 8 Day Coach Tour
Favorite thing: We enjoyed an excellent tour through parts of the Northern Territory with specialist tour company AAT Kings which is a part of the group which includes Trafalgar Tours.
No complaints about the tour, excellent Tour Guide who became part of the tour and often arrange to accompany passangers during free time. Our tour included several days in Darwin, a day trip to Litchfield National Park, a trip to Katherine via Adelaide river with a 2 night stay in Katherine. We then continued onto Kakadu National Park for 2 nights.
The tour included many entries, 3 boat cruises including Katherine Gorge, Kakadu wetlands, and the Yellow Waters.
Web Address: www.aatkings.com Toll Free: 1300 556 100 (Australia)
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
Darwin Houses – older style
Favorite thing: Post war Darwin took a while to become re-established, but in the 1950s and 1960s the town grew strongly. A particular style of tropical housing was developed, in many ways typical of that found throughout northern Australia. As you will see from the photos, the design raises the house, which is lightly built of fibre board, high on concrete ‘stumps’. This allows good airflow to assist cooling, while also providing space beneath to store vehicles and other property. Roofs were made of corrugated iron sheets. The design also provided many windows, mostly with glass louvres, again to assist with ventilation.
Gardens Road Cemetery - for geneology buffs
Favorite thing: The Gardens Road Cemetery is situated at 191 Gardens Road and was opened on 10 April 1919. The Cemetery served as the official cemetery for Darwin until 11 December 1970. It’s service to the Darwin community encompassed two world wars and catered for a fast growing multi-cultural society including Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Northern European, Anglos and Celts. Many of those interred there were pioneers in their own way, surviving the vicissitudes of Darwin including the Depression, World War II, the climate and uncertainty of life in what remained essentially a remote northern town. The Depression years saw many of the older, more prominent Darwin families bury their dead, with Japanese divers, ordinary citizens and a number of servicemen interred in the cemetery. From the outbreak of war in 1939 a number of servicemen, mainly RAAF were buried at Gardens Cemetery, as were a number of American servicemen from late 1941.
Despite large numbers of civilians and serviceman killed in the 19 February 1942 raids by the Japanese, only American servicemen were buried there as a result. Exhumations of American servicemen were conducted in 1942 and the Australians were exhumed and relocated to Adelaide River in 1944.
The cemetery has an intrinsic value to the community by virtue of its ability to reflect cultural attitudes to burials, the use of cemeteries and the approach to formal landscaping over the period of it's operation. The Cemetery is significant to the people of Darwin and it's recorded history on site and elsewhere adds a further dimension to the understanding of the Territory's past.
The cemetery is held in high esteem especially by the Darwin Community for it's symbolic and social associations and generates a great deal of interest from visitors to Darwin.
Fondest memory: The Gardens Road Cemetery provides a tangible reminder of the exploits and lives of many who contributed to the development of the Territory, particularly in the years between the wars, and of servicemen who were buried there in the early war years. Many of the graves represent the last resting place of Territorians whose contribution to the Territory is important to the interpretation of the Territory's historical, social and cultural background.
During it's years in use, 848 adults and 83 children were recorded as being buried at the cemetery.
This Cemetery was heritage listed in 1999.
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: The climate of Darwin is mainly tropical, with the dry months from May to September and the wet season from December to March..
Temperatures range from 25-33C (77-91F) in summer and 20-30C (69-88F) in winter.
The average rainfall 321mm (13 inches) in summer and 2mm in winter.
Fondest memory: The wet is almost unbearable in 'The Wet' when the humidity soars. Many people are know to go troppo during this time of the year. The dry is awesome, and when most of the tourists visit.
Pioneer Cemetery (Palmerston) for geneology buffs
Favorite thing: The Pioneer/Goyder Road Cemetery was originally called "Palmerston Cemetery" and is Darwin's first "official" cemetery. Among the gravestones and unmarked graves, lie buried the stories of hundreds of the Territory's pioneer men, women and children. There are stories of tragedy and triumph, hope and heartbreak. Here, in this final resting place, the 'occupants' sleep on oblivious to the modern homes and businesses established nearby and the thousands of vehicles that pass by.
The Pioneer Cemetery is situated on Goyder Road and is also known as the Goyder Road Cemetery or Palmerston Cemetery. The Pioneer Cemetery was opened in 1865 and closed in 1919. The cemetery has been controlled by the Darwin City Council since 1958.
In February 1869 the South Australian Government sent George Woodroffe Goyder, the Surveyor General and a group of survey teams north to Port Darwin aboard the Moonta. One of the first tasks of George Goyder surveyors when they designed the new town of Palmerston (not officially called Darwin until after 1911) was to lay out the future town across the peninsula and extending a mile or two from the site. In the plan, Goyder also made a provision for the first cemetery for Palmerston. The 48 acres they selected for this purpose stretched across from where Graham Street in Stuart Park runs today, straddling what became the Stuart Highway and running from around Nylander Street to include what remains of the cemetery today, near the Motor Vehicles Registry.
The site for the cemetery was recorded in the 1869 field book of Surveyor AT Woods, referring to "Prince's Creek' which was in the vicinity of Graham or Nudl streets of today's Stuart Park. Indeed, the present Stuart Highway bisects the site of the old cemetery which provided for a road reserve two chains wide leading from town as "Freds Pass Road".
Fondest memory: It is thought that the first burials were in 1873. Charles Harvey, a carpenter, died on 4 October 1872, James Honan on 26 October and police trooper William Davies was taken by a crocodile off Lameroo whilst swimming on 26 November 1872. Two miners, Robert McCracken and JW Smith died in early 1873.
In the first half of century of Darwin's existence, more than 600 people were buried in the Palmerston Cemetery. Today, about 90 graves are still visible, within the new fenced area of what remains of the old cemetery.
maintained by Darwin City Council
- Historical Travel
Computer Info for your Internet Cafe Needs
Favorite thing: Computer Info is where i go for all my Computer needs. Also a great internet cafe at only $3.95 with a free drink with an hours use.
Ask for Earlwin, he rocks...
5/21 Cavenagh Street Darwin
phone: 08 8941 3800
Favorite thing: I experienced the excellant travel booking and internet service of Global Gossip when in Cairns, so I was happy to see that it is also in Darwin.
If you want to make a travel booking or use the internet (and they provide a card you can top up and use anywhere in Australia)....then look no further than Global Gossip.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Favorite thing: As you wander around Darwin, no matter what time of year, it always great to find a nice, cool shady nook where you can sit and relax. Civic Square has a number of these, like this one not far from the Mall.
- Budget Travel
Do not forget to drink with MODERATION... even if the aussie beers are very tempted.
Each Australian state have its own proud:
Tooheys (NSW), my favorite by the way
XXXX (QLD), my favorite too by the way
Cascade (TAS), my favorite too too by the way
VB (VIC), my favorite too too too by the way
Coopers (SA), my favorite too too too too by the way
Emu (WA), my favorite too too too too too by the way
??? (NT), ouf I'm saved I did not taste the local beer as I never go there (yet)... should come back soon ;-)
My first virtual local beer ;-)
- Beer Tasting
Best time to visit Darwin
Favorite thing: The best months, weather-wise, would be during the winter months when the weather is actually dry up north in Australia. You get plenty of sun, blue skies and almost no rain.
As such the best months should be between late May - early October.
After that, the Big Wet slowly descends onto this part of Australia, and at its peak in December-January, you may get torrential rain and as well as tropical cyclones.
The worst cyclone to hit Darwin was in 1974 - Cyclone Tracy - on Christmas Eve and almost flattened the entire city.
Fondest memory: Know more about Cyclone Tracy by clicking the words to get to the link.
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