Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Darwin

Darwin is not to town it used to be. We were here in 1972, pre Tracy, when it had a population of 46 000 and a small-town atmosphere. We were here pre Grey Nomad invasion. We were here when the bombings of WW2 were rarely mentioned and the remnants of the numerous airfields were disappearing into the scrub.

Because of Cyclone Tracy (Christmas Day 1974) very few buildings from the earlier times exist and it appears that the city is determined to build itself into a modern and vibrant city as quickly as possible. Construction is evident everywhere. The waterfront area in particular is looking bright and sparkly, with a popular large wave pool, manicured lawns and a beach overlooked by apartments. The Beagle sailed in to the harbour in 1839 with Charles Darwin on board and Wickham, the ships' commander, named the area in his honour. The presentday wharf is named after John Stokes who was the first crew member to see the harbour. Darwin, Wickham and Stokes wouldn't recognise the place.

Darwin waterfront
Wave Pool, Waterfront, Darwin
Stokes Wharf and Waterfront, Darwin
The history of the area is now well recognised in various museums, memorials and galleries. The Aboriginal heritage, the influence of various Asian cultures, the dozens of WW2 sites and the natural environments are all celebrated. Even Cyclone Tracy is highlighted, particularly at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. MAGNT is a fantastic spot to wander through for several hours, and it's free. I was particularly impressed by a very large display on the life and work of  Wallace: "To commemorate the 100th anniversary of eminent naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace's passing, this exhibition will showcase Wallace's exploration of the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia and New Guinea, and his ideas on Evolution by Natural Selection and biogeography. The exhibition includes specimens of butterflies, beetles and birds of paradise, as well as prints of drawings and maps by Wallace." The Wallace exhibition should be permanent - it's excellent. Also excellent is the Cyclone Tracy display and the gallery of Aboriginal art. And they have Sweetheart there as well! He is an impressive 5 m crocodile who was accidentally drowned during capture in 1979.

My hope is that the city of Darwin and surrounds can develop a unique personality. I don't think it has quite yet but I may be a little unfair as we've only been here three days.

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