Day 31 – 4th Aug 2012 – Still at Howard Springs

This is a very quiet caravan park, but someone nearby played music ALL NIGHT. It wasn’t loud enough to be annoying or to keep us awake, but whenever we did wake we could just hear it in the background. Bet they slept all day whoever they were! The people next to us said they heard it too. Mind you the other sounds through the night are still very nice – curlews call out for quite some time after dark, and then the bird song in the morning is absolutely fabulous. There are a lot of trees in this park so there is a lot of bird life.

This morning I did some washing (thank goodness for a washing machine in our Van as the washing machines are in full use in such a large park as this) and Ian topped up our water tanks as we may be at Parks which require us to use our own water for the next few days or so. We then drove into Darwin to start another day of visiting important tourist venues.

Some wartime displays under camouflage

Our first stop was the Darwin Military Museum and the Defense of Darwin Experience which are both at East Point Reserve, right on a cliff above the shorline. It was a strategic base during WWII. Once again – a most outstanding display. Frequently through the day, Air Raid Sirens would wail, and this was a signal for people to move to a certain area to watch an amazing sound and light display of the bombing of Darwin. This area had large doors which closed shut during the performance. It was really well done. The constant clamour of planes flying, bombs falling, flames roaring etc. was quite realistic. This display went for 20 minutes. Absolutely amazing. It was permitted to take photos of this area, but none of my photos were clear enough.Also at this venue were top class displays of various aspects of that day (19 Feb 1942) when Darwin was bombed. There were recorded voices of those who survived and tributes to those who did not. Many of the displays were interactive – touch screens/earphones etc. Very well set out. Once we had seen all we could inside the venue, there was then a large area with displays of various weapons, buildings etc. which would have been in use at that time. The largest display was a 9.2″ diameter (replica) gun implacement. The actual barrel etc. was well over 13 feet long. It was massive. But it was no use during the battle – having only ever been used for practice rounds – because the Japanese attacked Darwin by air, and this implacement was for defense against ships. It was interesting to learn that although this display commemorates the first bombing of Darwin, the Japanese bombed Darwin on and off for a period of over 20 months. How frightening it must have been.

We stopped and had lunch there because we still had a few things to do in the town itself.

Next stop was Oil Storage Tunnels.

Ian at entrance to a storage tunnel

These huge tunnels were dug by hand, and they were designed to be an alternative to the aboveground oil storage facilities. 8 tunnels were built, but they were never used, because by the time they were completed the war was nearly over and the Navy decided they did not need them. Also, after the war, problems arose with seepage. So, although they were never used, it was possible they never would have been anyway because of this seepage. Only one tunnel (No.5) is open to public viewing and it looks much as it did in 1945. Yes, you will be surprised that I went into the tunnel, and I am glad I did because it was certainly very interesting. To think they were built by hand was really amazing.

Statistics on tunnel

After that we drove to a high point just near the CBD and walked along a walkway, a couple of stories up, and we able to view the Darwin Waterfront.

Darwin Waterfront

What a busy place. There were people everywhere. The sidewalk cafes were full, there was a pool with plenty of people swimming, there were bike riders and walkers on various paths, and then just beside all this was the wave pool (artificial waves) and this too was full. It was lovely to see all the families out and about enjoying the balmy weather. Winter in Darwin certainly is very nice! (That’s if you can call it ‘winter’)

We then drove back along the Stuart Highway to another War Memory Venue – the Australian Aviation Heritage Museum. This too was very well presented. In a most gigantic hangar there are planes (and vehicles) of all shapes and sizes with very informative display boards. There were also 2 audio visual displays which could be watched.

Wing of B52 bomber

The largest and most impressive plane on display was a B52 bomber. It was absolutely impossible to get a photo of this plane in one shot. Unbelievable. Fully loaded with fuel and bombs it weighed 500,000lbs (226 tonnes). There were 8 undercarriage landing wheels and 1 on each wing as well. We thought the Canberra bomber we saw at a War Museum in Meandarra in Queensland way back in June was massive – not so. Compared to this it was the size of a mosquito!

The diamenter of the wheels on the B52

We then headed back to our Park but first drove around an outer suburb of Darwin called Palmerston. Very tidy and well set out with large shopping centres. A very pretty place indeed. In fact we have been most impressed with Darwin as a whole. A well set out and tidy City.

We then did some shopping to tide us over for a few days as we will be leaving Darwin tomorrow and food prices increase quite a bit once we are out of the major towns/cities.

I have to mention a sign I have seen nailed on to trees not far from where we are here in Howard Springs. It is hand painted and says “Plant Holes Dug. $3 each (and includes a mobile phone number)”. Very innovative! Wonder if he gets much work. My Dad would have taken up this offer – I remember he once told my Mum that she was not allowed to bring home another plant unless she also brought home a hole to plant it in!

A different caravan

Talking about innovation – there was one item on display at the Aviation Museum which really amused us. It was a caravan made out of a fusilage from a crashed plane. It was used by a  Christian Patrol Padre who towed it behind a Landrover when visiting outback areas. It was probably the first of a real offroad Van! It has been given to the museum for display – beside it is another part of a fusilage, but the sign says the caravan part will not be restored to its original use but be used to show ‘a vehicle for peace made out of a vehicle of war’. Very different.

Once again – it is possible we will be out of mobile/internet range every now and then so if a Blog is not posted that will be the reason why.

Love to all, Janese and Ian


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