Darwin Waterfront PrecinctMrJ and I decided to catch the local bus into town; the bus services in Darwin run to a good schedule and the timetables are easy to follow. We thought that we would do a walk down to the waterfront and out to the old wharf, Stokes Hill Wharf where during the Vietnam days in the 60’s HMAS Attack, the ship that MrJ while stationed on would come alongside. The day was developing into a scorcher that neither of us where prepared for as we set off down the road. To our surprise MrJ and I discovered a whole new Waterfront Precinct with parklands, a swimming lagoon, a wave pool, a huge seawall and several tall apartment buildings with cafes and shops on their ground floors.
The Darwin Waterfront has a significant and varied history for the many different cultures that have helped to shape it. The area was home of the Larrakia people, who for centuries traded with the Macassans, the site of early Malay/Chinese settlements and was the site of the original landing of European settlers who waded ashore and camped in the ‘gully’ by Fort Hill. The area was the site of the first bomb to land on Australia during World War II and the site of the first public gardens. The railway came from Frances Creek to the jetty with a station near Stokes Hill and where Travelers’ Walk marks an old path used to walk from the early camp to the escarpment.Today the Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a place to unwind, have fun and enjoy your surroundings. Parks, gardens and picnic areas featuring tropical landscaping are there for the enjoyment of the public. Built to complement the parklands are two swimming lagoons the Wave Lagoon and the Recreation Lagoon.
The Recreation Lagoon has a sea wall designed to protect the entire site from a 1:100 storm surge captures a permanent body of water providing for swimming and other water-based activities. Water is pumped in from the sea and the water quality is maintained through mechanical flushing and mixing. Mesh screens are in place to prevent marine stingers entering the first part of the lagoon and there is a stinger net providing more protection on the beach side. Lifeguards are supposed to regularly drag and monitor the water and night spotting for marine stingers is carried out weekly. The Darwin Waterfront Corporation takes all reasonable steps to ensure the lagoon is free of marine stingers but there is no 100% guarantee. A natural eco system exists including fish, algae, and Cassiopeia jellyfish. All play an important role maintaining a healthy environment. Some large fish live in the outer lagoon, at times they have brushed up against swimmers. These fish eat the jellyfish and are needed them to keep the numbers down. If swimming with fish isn’t your thing you to swim on the beach side of the stinger net, they are kept out of this area. The Recreation Lagoon is free to use and lifeguards patrol the water seven days a week.The Wave Lagoon is a safe stinger and crocodile-free wave and swimming lagoon where fees are charged and covers an area of 4,000 square metres. Included is a shallow still water area for toddlers. The water is chlorinated salt and the lagoon has a concrete bottom. The wave lagoon is capable of a range of different waves up to 1.7 metres in height providing a range of experiences for all users. Waves run on a cycle with a ten minute break in between.
Like all outdoor activities the Wave and Recreation Lagoons are affected by weather. From October to May wet season storms can pose a danger. Both lagoons will be evacuated if lightning is close by. If thunder is heard within 30 seconds or less after a lightning flash, lifeguards will evacuate both lagoons.
Public art has been integrated amongst the buildings, amenities and public space, celebrating the diverse cultural influences of the area.
Jipiyontong (Jabiru) 2008 a piece done in cast aluminium and italian glass tiles by artist Janice Murray who is from Milikapiti. The work depicts the Jabiru, a bird found on the Tiwi Islands. The designs in the work are drawn from traditional body designs (Jilmara), used during Pukamani (funeral) ceremony. Tiwi birds are a common subject for the artist and reflect the totemic significance and abundance of birdlife on the islands. Janice’s traditional county on the island is Tinganu, an area to the far East of the community.
Gapu Guya 2008 (Gapu = water, Guya = fish) is a ceramic print on glass by artist Wukun Wanambi (b. 1962) is a part of the Marrakulu Clan, who are responsible for saltwater imagery that has not been painted intensively since his father’s death in 1981. Wanambi learnt the sacred designs of his father from elders in 1997.
|low tide at Fort Hill Wharf|
In 1923 the Royal Australian Navy moved from coal to fuel oil and the following year construction began on four oil storage tanks in Port Darwin as a part of building a new oil refueling station. Darwin became an important site within the national program of naval defence. A critical part of the refueling station was the Darwin Pump House which was completed in 1928. This building housed two main oil pumps manufactured by Kelly & Lewis in Melbourne and two G&J Weir feed pumps built in Cathcart, Glasgow. These were powered first by steam, and then later by electricity. Oil was pumped out of tankers, stored in the nearby tanks and pumped out again when vessels required refueling. In 1932 five more tanks were built with a further two completed by December 1941. On 19 February 1942, only days after Singapore surrendered to the invading Japanese army, the storage tanks were bombed in the first aerial bombing raid on Darwin Harbour. Successive bombing raids destroyed more tanks until by June 1943 only the No. 8 tank remained intact. The Pump House itself suffered only minor damage and the technology survived well into the post-war period. The Pump House and the remains of the storage tanks set into Stokes Hill are key elements in an understanding of the history of the Port.
|Stokes Hill Wharf|
|most of the cafes on the wharf open for sunset and evening times|
The wharf area was the stage on which many crucial scenes of World War II were played out. Even before Japan joined the War the small sleepy town of Darwin, that in 1938 had about 3000 residents took on a new character as the military buildup of infrastructure and personnel began. On 12 December 1941, a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Cabinet issued the order for the civilian evacuation of Darwin. Over the next few weeks about 750 women and children were evacuated south on the Zealandia, Koolama, Koolinda, Montoro and the American ship, General Grant. The decision to evacuate civilians was timely. At two minutes to ten on the morning of 19 February 1942, Japanese aircraft from the same attack group that had bombed Pearl Harbor, struck at Darwin sinking eight of the 47 ships anchored there. At the wharf, the Neptuna was in the process of unloading her cargo: 200 depth charges with a very large quantity of anti aircraft shells for the Navy and Army. A bomb struck the angle corner of the wharf, blowing a locomotive and trucks into the sea. The Neptuna exploded and more than 50 of the ship’s company were killed along with 22 civilian wharfies, many from longstanding Darwin families. In the chaos and confusion, some men showed enormous courage and presence of mind. They rowed small boats out through the burning oil to rescue injured sailors.
|Darwin harbour on a New Moon low tide - 7mts difference between low and high tides|
|looking down on the parkland and lagoon from the top walkway|
It was a very hot day and MrJ and I were still wandering around in it. We wandered back to the parkland where we found the new walkway back to the city. A dedicated walkway has been developed linking the Darwin Waterfront Precinct to the Darwin CBD via a pedestrian bridge from the end of Smith Street over Kitchener Drive and joining with a glass-sided lift. . Much shorter than the roadway and easier on the old body!