Darwin: thinking of …

10 Sep

… Charles, what comes to mind? Lessons about Evolution, the Origin of Species, survival of the fittest and most adaptable (and merciless, okay, no, he didn’t say that). So why would a place where the explorer himself never set foot on be called DARWIN? I think, the First Officer and the Captain of the HMS Beagle must have really liked the voyages with this weird guy, keen observer – explorer – theoretician. And after Darwin had got off the ship and started dedicating himself to organizing, editing and publishing the reports on his collections, the officer and the captain of the Beagle got the task of surveying the shores of Australia and they called the nice new port at the Top End Darwin.

Coming from a Roman summer (hot), to a Sydney winter (fine days but cold nights and mornings), where would you want to go to warm up? The tropics sounds great and Darwin is the northernmost city of Australia, a stone’s throw away from Indonesia and the equator, with a temperature between 19 degrees (night) and 36 degrees (daytime). That’s nice and waaaarm! Only 4 hours flight from Sydney, slightly different time zone, just half an hour, but set your watch (!), Australians can be over-punctual.


this may look really new and modern …


… and unexciting to you

Some of what is really interesting here is underground.

Remember WWII? Another ANZAC memorial? No! Look at this:


Now why would anyone want to bomb Darwin? Who? Germans? Japanese?

Australia wasn’t on the list of the countries to be occupied but after WWI Darwin became a key location of the Singapore – Australia defence line (I guess they saw it coming).


note the words “naval refuelling station”

Clearly, never underestimate your enemy!!!! Seeing huge fuel tanks on the Darwin waterfront the Imperial Japanese .. bla .. Forces didn’t think twice and bombed the oil out of them on the morning of February 19 in 1942 destroying the naval base and killing more than 200 people.


Japanese air raid, successful, these things blow up like hell

Australian guns and searchlights on the waterfront hadn’t been of any help, the attack came from the air. Gee, didn’t they KNOW, the Japs had planes? (Mitsubishi was already a name to be taken in consideration!).

Then, brilliant idea, put that stuff underground!


… the tunnels were built entirely in secret … 400 men … sneaking in and out of this hillside like rabbits … sandfly-filled mangrove swamps … not an ideal working environment (understatement!)

Secret?! The soil that had been removed from underground remained dumped at the entrance of the tunnels clearly to be seen during reconnaissance flights (just in case Japanese intelligence officers were wondering what was going on now). Never mind, the tunnels were made of concrete walls with steel lining and were bomb proof. However, they turned out to be not entirely water proof in the long run. They were restored and ready to be visited in 1992 at the 50th anniversary of the bombardment.


a hell of a lot of work (5 tunnels)

These pictures probably mean “everybody, really e-ve-ry-bo-dy,  lent a hand”

overworked           and          under-payed


The tunnels, now a museum with posters and explanations  

Australia, keep these things in good condition, Kim Jong-un may NOT be “blustering”! (as Aussie newspapers suggest) Oh okay, no, no chances, he’s gonna nuke us right away …

Wartime humour: I found the menu really funny.  However, as the saying goes: “war is not a picnic” (Yeah, I know, it’s “life is not a picnic”)


“joints” are large pieces of meat cooked in one piece, not the ones you smoke; the meaning of the name of the inn? … no idea!

On the whole, as all the ANZAC memorials tell, Australia had and still has a military force to be reckoned with. Amazing the Catalina flying boats, you would think, you don’t need anything else.


Perfect multi-purpose war equipment: search and rescue, bomb and lay mines, medical supply and courier service, reconnaissance and sabotage. Had they been faster, they would have done the job and won right away.

Happy to be over ground again and back to the present: tropical vegetation, the well kept ruins of the town hall, Bicentennial Park (nice benches in the shade, green grass carpet, public restrooms: clean and for free), Christ Church Cathedral, as garrison church first destroyed by the Axis powers, then rebuilt by the military and finally, in 1974 cyclone Tracy struck and (besides devastating the whole town) wreaked havoc on the church leaving only the porch of it standing. It happened one hour after Midnight Mass on Christmas Day. (Je …)


lush green tropical vegetation


Ruins of the Town Hall (cyclone Tracy,1974)


Bicentennial Park, green and clean


Christ Church Cathedral, the old porch integrated into the new, modern building


Cyclone Tracy Memorial window (Dalle de verre technique, pieces of glass)


Multi-ethnic Darwin: countless origins, cuisines, languages, >50 shades of beige-brown, at the night market you meet them all  


Mindil Beach at sunset

No salt water croc in sight but having heard of them I gave up the idea of going swimming in the morning.




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