Brisbane was experiencing some cooler weather as we departed for Darwin for the start of our train journey on the Ghan a couple of weeks ago. Following a 3 hour flight, we arrived to much warmer weather and immediately regretted that we hadn’t thought to pack our swimmers. The pool at our hotel looked very inviting.
We were booked in for two nights, so we stopped by the information centre to find something interesting to do the following day.
We decided on the Hop On-Hop Off Bus, and it proved to be great value for money. We rode the bus all day, as it did a different route in the afternoon, and we came away with a lot more knowledge than when we arrived.
We learned a lot about pre-war Darwin, wartime Darwin and Cyclone Tracy. We were very surprised to find out that when the Japanese bombed Darwin in 1942, a greater number of bombs was dropped that day than were used in the attack on Pearl Harbour. For generations the country was kept in the dark about the true dimensions of the Japanese attack and I think a lot of people probably still don’t know. We didn’t.
On the other hand, most Australians are very familiar with Cyclone Tracy, a tropical cyclone that hit Darwin in the early hours of Christmas Eve, 1974, the worst one ever recorded which virtually destroyed Darwin.
We visited several museums that covered a lot of this history; you can stand in a darkened room, where you can experience the sounds that would have been heard when Cyclone Tracy hit. Quite eerie.
The Military Museum had holograms telling the story of a commanding officer of a US destroyer, who watched the bombing from the water after he was blown out of a small boat while trying to return to his ship.
This museum also included The Royal Flying Doctor Service, with an interesting film on its origins in 1939, as well as being able to discover what it’s like to be inside one of its aircraft.
What I liked best was the virtual reality headsets taking you into the battlefront of the bombing of Darwin. I had to do it twice, it was incredible – 360 degree views on board a ship with the bombs coming down from Japanese planes flying overhead; then being on the wing of a fighter plane as the pilot ducked and weaved and finally being hit and falling out of the sky with the pilot down into the fiery sea. Not for the faint-hearted!