Our first port of call on the way to Japan was Darwin, which is the capital of Northern Australia, with a population of about 150,000.
Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882
In 1839 Lieutenant John Lort Stokes of HMS Beagle, was the first British person to spot the harbour of what was to become Darwin. Commander of the Beagle, John Wickham, named the harbour after Charles Darwin who had been a ship mate of them both in an earlier expedition while in HMS Beagle.
It is ironic that Charles Darwin never visited the town, which carries his name.
It was not until 1869 that a permanent settlement was set up by the South Australian government, who at that time was responsible for the Territory.
George Goyder, the Surveyor General of South Australia arrived with 135 men and women to settle at Port Darwin. The town that was created was called Palmerston, after the then British Prime Minister.
In the 1870’s the 3,200 km telegraph line was completed between Darwin and Port Augusta in South Australia, which connected Australia to the rest of the world.
I took the above pictures, considering the significance it doesn’t look much does it ?
A lot has changed in the field of communication in 147 years.
The name of Palmerston was changed to Darwin in 1911, and Darwin was granted city status in 1959 due to population growth.
As we entered Darwin harbour the sun began to rise behind us, and I love sunrise and sun sets. This one was taken from our balcony.
I’d checked Trip Advisor and through this web site I found a company that offered walking tours around Darwin, cheaper than the ship.
We met at 8.30 am so as to avoid the heat of the day and the walk began. Our guide was a lady who was born in the Territory and had lived and worked there all her life and there wasn’t a question she couldn’t answer.
About ten days before we arrived, Darwin suffered another cyclone and the newspapers down south just love drama, even negative drama, so one couldn’t be sure if Darwin had been blown away.
Not being a great fan of the media I e-mailed the ‘Walk’ company and John (the owner) came back with a detailed explanation as to what had happened and that there had been a large number of trees blown over, but on the whole it was ‘business as normal’. During our walk it was obvious that John was correct.
During the latest cyclone our guide told us that she had lost all power for five days – she lived in an outer suburb not in the centre. Fortunately she was able to borrow a generator and managed to save her frozen and chilled food.
Quite large trees were ripped out of the ground.
Christmas day in 1974 seems to be the date that Darwin reinvented itself after Cyclone Tracy destroyed the city.
Most of the buildings at that time were constructed with corrugated iron roofs and the wind, at 200 km per hour, had a field day ripping roofs apart and destroying homes and various other buildings.
One of the very few remaining buildings from 1974, with a corrugated iron roof.
Darwin 1974, after the cyclone.
Signal tower bent by the wind in 1974 – currently in the Darwin museum.
Darwin town hall, which is all that remains as a memorial of the 1974 cyclone
Inside the old town hall.
The Anglican cathedral was destroyed, but has been rebuilt.
The stone entrance if the only remaining part of the original building.
Inside the cathedral
Taken from the entrance
Not far from the cathedral, in front of the new civic centre, we found the Galamarrma (banyan ) tree or tree of knowledge.
The above is a photograph of a photograph, the original was taken around 1915.
Chinese youths would sit under the tree and listen to the words of wisdom from their elders – hence the tree of knowledge.
It is thought that the tree is the remains of the rainforest that was cleared to build Palmerston / Darwin in the late 1800’s.
Below is the tree today – on the right is the new civil centre and when this was about to be built to replace the one destroyed in 1974, the plans were for the tree of knowledge to be cut down. Public protests caused the civic centre to be altered by three metres to accommodate the tree.
The Terminus Hotel (which can be seen behind the tree in the B & W picture) closed in 1931 and was eventually pulled down.
China town (which was mainly to the left of the tree as we look at it ) was destroyed by fire during WW2, so the tree has a ‘grandfather’ claim to be left alone.
Across the road from the tree is a semi-circle of bells commemorating 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin (1809 – 1883).
Darwin was fascinated by the different parrots in Australia, so on top of a number of the bells are models of various parrots.
Our guide made a phone call and suddenly the bells began to strike up a tune. I think the bells ring at certain times a day and when requested. As long as you know who to contact.
There are eleven cast bronze bells in all, that play various chimes.
Model of HMS Beagle on top of one of the bells.
I tried to find a link for the chimes, but unfortunately I couldn’t find one. If you wish to know more of the background of the bells try this link Darwin bells
It was not just cyclones that tried to destroy Darwin, because in February 1942 the Japanese had a go. Two hundred and forty two Japanese planes attacked in two separate raids.
The smoke behind the navy vessel is due to a hit on the oil storage tanks.
The casualties consisted of 236 civilians and service men killed, thirty aircraft destroyed, eleven vessel sunk, three vessels grounded and twenty five ships damaged. The Japanese suffered four aircraft destroyed, two servicemen killed and one captured.
Four aircraft carriers were used by the Japanese in the attack, the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū, and the Sōryū.
All four were sunk four months later at the Battle of Midway.
Each year on the anniversary of the raid there is a memorial service held in Darwin.
On a happier note the town centre is a friendly, pleasant area . . .
I noticed two second hand book shops, and managed to stick my nose in to both.
Darwin is no longer a back water on the tip of Australia, but a town worth visiting for something different. The walk from the ship to the centre of town was about fifteen minutes. Darwin is used as the main base to visit the various sites in and around ‘ the top end’ of Australia.
The above picture was taken from our balcony.
The misty bit on the left could have been due to condensation on the camera lens . . . but not being a photographer I haven’t a clue what caused it . . . .