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What - go to a city? Darwin was always planned to be part of this trip
Thursday, Aug 13, 2009 at 00:00
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We don’t do cities! Although we are usually not keen to visit cities when caravanning,
was one we really wanted to see. Arriving late in the day without a booking 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
. For a park just off the Stuart Highway and in close proximity to the airport, it was surprisingly quiet.
Stokes Hill Harbour from Survivors Lookout
Pumps in the underground fuel tunnels Darwin
One of the fuel tunnels underneath Darwin city
Our first stop was in central
to tour the underground fuel storage facilities built during WWII. Japanese air raids of 19 February 1942, 16 March 1942 and 16 June 1942 destroyed 7 of the 11 above-ground oil storage tanks that were located on Stokes
Wharf. Commencing in 1943, eight # 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 claims that only five of the proposed eight # planned were built.
Darwin Oil Tunnels
Two are underneath the present day Parliament House. The two near
were opened to the public in 1992, fifty years after the bombing of
. 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 5 metres high.
From these tunnels, a series of steps goes to Survivor’s Lookout on the Esplanade, overlooking Stokes
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
was named by Lieutenant Stokes of the British Navy in September 1839 in honour of his friend Charles
. Thirty years later George Goyder arrived to establish a settlement in the north of
that the current site was selected. The port was used to supply the new settlement of Palmerston (now the city centre of
A defence build up in
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
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 world’s longest boom net to prevent submarines from entering the harbour, hospitals, anti-aircraft defences and RAAF squadrons,
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 15 February 1942 a convoy of ships carrying troops to reinforce Timor left
. They came under heavy attack and returned the next day.
On 19 February 1942, Japanese headed towards
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
were amongst those destroyed during the first air raid; the
was on the site where Parliament House now stands. Twice as many bombs were dropped on
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
sustained at least 62 more air raids to 12 November 1943, but none so severe as on the first day.
From signage at Survivors Lookout
The following day we went to the Aviation Museum 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.
did not send troops to join the US forces until 1962.
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 the Australian forces.
A massive B52 bomber dominates the Aviation Museum
CAC Avon Sabre
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
with around 200 shops.
There was so much more we could have seen and done in
, but three days in any city is more than enough for us, and we were keen to move on to other exciting
Litchfield National Park
being next on our agenda.
Read more detail about this trip and see all the photos in our
Attractions/Things to Do
Members Blog Index
Kakadu National Park last day – Mamukala Wetlands Bird Hide and the South Alligator River Crossing.
Litchfield National Park: Magnetic Termite Mounds, Waterfalls and Mining Ruins
Red desert dreaming
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