DELVE INTO DARWIN
DAY 53- 03 MARCH 2023
ENROUTE TO AIRLIE BEACH
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2
DARWIN is the capital city of the Northern Territory, Australia. Situated on the Timor Sea, Darwin has a population of 127,500, making it by far the largest and most populated city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory. It is thesmallest and most Northerly of the Australian capital cities. Darwin has grown from a pioneer outpost and small port into one of Australia’s most modern and multicultural cities.
On 9th September 1839 HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin and the harbour during its surveying of the area. John Clements Wickman named the region ‘Port Darwin” in honour of his former shipmate the scientist, Charles Darwin, who had sailed with Beagle on the ship’s previous voyage that ended in October 1836. Darwin never visited the city that was named in recognition of him and his work.
Queen Mary 2 sailed into Darwin at 7am on Monday 27th February 2023.
The plan was to stay just one day, but following the cancellation of our Bali port of call, new arrangements were put in place. An overnight stay in Darwin was added to our voyage. On deck before dawn, sailing into the cruise terminal, the city came into view alongside the Timor river. There is a sky bridge from the port into the city centre and it takes under half an hour to walk to almost anywhere of interest.
A small, compact city, pristine, tree-filled and landscaped with all the amenities of larger cities. There is a juxtaposition of traditional colonial and contemporary architecture. Cyclone Tracy in 1974 devastated the city and there was hardly a structure left standing. The city was built back better than ever. Cautious is exercised when it comes to high Rises; housing and offices tend all to be under about 10 stories with one or two exceptions such as the showcase Pearl company building in the town centre.
There is a tranquillity about the elegant seven-gabled Government House, which houses a reference museum and library and is open to the public; and within a few minutes’ walk, the Courts of Justice, Old Admiralty House, Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.
Restaurants and pubs with a diverse array of menus including Asian foods and ethnic menus are arranged together in courtyard food courts. Good quality fashion shops offer international brand names, like Tommy Bahama, and boutiques and galleries offer a unique and original selection of ethnic paintings and craft.
Australian Maoris have been established in the area for over 10,000 years and currently 850 businesses in Darwin are owned and managed by the aboriginal ancestors of the local tribe, the Larrakias, the Saltwater People.
This vibrant aboriginal people, whose community numbers about 2,000, are held in high regard and respected in the arts, politics, spiritual matters, business, educational, health, government and administration. The Larrakia tribe continues to hold themselves responsible for the cultural and spiritual welfare of those who live and pass through their city. In return, the Larrakia people are considered to be the owners of the land and respect is paid to their elders past and present
A trip out to the East Point Reserve and the Botanical Gardens is an opportunity to see the vast scale of the city environs. On either side of the main highway, waterways. With one big difference. The waterfront beach by the harbour is home to crocodiles, jelly fish, and poisonous snakes.
Thre-hundred crocodiles were captured and removed from the area in 2022. They keep coming and growing. Not a safe place to swim. On the opposite side of the highway, the area is patrolled and kept clear of dangerous creatures. This area is considered safe for swimming.
On the road out to East Point we pass Fannie Bay, an exclusive residential area with multi- million Australian dollar homes. The local Equestrian Centre is said to have been gifted their horses after the World War when Darwin was bombed and horses and army personnel were stationed on the island.
Driving on this stretch of road, suddenly in the distance, there appeared a family of wallabies. Lively little things, they jump and bounce in the wide-open spaces between the rain trees – until the rains come down. Perhaps their rain dance is what attracts the monsoon-like downpour.
East Point houses the purpose-built Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. A permanent exhibition dramatically re-enacts the defining moment in Darwin’s history when a Category 4 Cyclone hit the town and changed the urban landscape and the lives of Darwin’s residents forever.
The museum presents an evolving programme of educational events, history and art and culture exhibitions in the purpose built multi-galleried space which was commissioned following Cyclone Tracy to ensure that the devastation would never be forgotten.
There is also an exhibition depicting Darwin’s significant role in Australia’s defensive and offensive activities during World War 11. In a separate location, close to the cruise terminal, to bring the story vividly to life, the World War 11 tunnels, used to store fuel to power military aircraft are open to the public.
Darwin is proud of its history and the courage of its people, who form the tight knit communities and the stories that remain personal family history to so many. No visit to the museum would be complete without meeting one of the longest term exhibitions featuring a Darwin resident. Sweetheart is a 5.1.k saltwater crocodile and the name, Sweetheart was bestowed because so many people embraced a deep affection for her and they have a natural attachment to their native animals. Also, they are proud, Sweetheart was not hunted, he died of old age.
Darwin is that kind of place, it is easy to imagine surviving a long and happy life there. Darwin seemed to enjoy having Queen May 2 in harbour. As well as doubling our time in port, from one day to two, we were over six hours late sailing out of the harbour. We only just made it before the midnight hour!
Leaning over the rail of the ship, as we waved our goodbyes, I couldn’t help calling out, “Good night, Sweetheart.”
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Happy Sailing... Ellen
NEXT PORT OF CALL:
AIRLIE BEACH - 06 MARCH 2023
Current position of Queen Mary 2: Under way from Darwin to Airlie Beach
Departure was 1 d 12 hrs 14 min ago. (at 18:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 2 d 16 min. (at 07:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Darwin: 693.40 nm (1,284.17 km)
Remaining distance to Airlie Beach: 925.93 nm (1,714.83 km)
Traveled distance since Singapore: 2,671.47 nm (4,947.56 km)
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.