Sailing Vessel Kaiwo Maru

This is part 2 of what may become a multipart series …

Darwin harbour is without doubt still a beautiful place.

Sure, while humans and nature have both tried their best to trash the place over the past couple of hundred years – the settler society with inappropriate residential and industrial developments, the WWII bombing raids (that have left the harbour floor littered with wrecks) and nature with massive cyclones – the harbour is a survivor.

I moved back to Darwin a few months ago after too long in Centralia. In that time Darwin – Garramilla to the Larrikia people, the first nation owners of the land and waters in and around the harbour – has grown in some respects and shrunk in others.

One thing that caught my eye is the increase in shipping servicing the offshore and onshore gas facilities and the cruise ship industry. There is also a large coastal barge fleet servicing the NT’s offshore islands and remote townships and a mixed small fleet of fishing and pearl industry boats, among others. And of course Darwin has long had a naval base, with a small fleet of patrol boats permanently based here and other ships from the navies of Australia and other countries involved in regular joint military, aerial and naval exercises.

Another thing that I love about this harbour is that it is never the same from one day to the next. The three visual elements – water, sea surface and sky above – are in constant flux, driven by the irresistible forces of tide, wind and weather.

One day the waters will be a muddled mousey grey, the next a bright lapis lazuli and the next a messy cabbage green. The surface can be glassy and uniform; streamed with layered froth and channels moved by breezes and tide; choppy behind a strong south-easterly; or ripped and torn by rushing tides and strong cross-utting winds that swing ships about on their anchors like windvanes in an open field.

And above all the sky. Even with the consistently blue midday skies of the Dinidjanggama season from June to late August the sky can wake – and sleep – a violent red from the smoke of seasonal fires that stings the eyes and throat; hazy from early morning swamp and sea fogs that bring horizons shrinking close-up and distant shores away to disappear; or on another – or the same day – with scatters of whispy clouds scudding across an impossibly electric blue dome.

Then there is the promised threat of long-overdue but never-coming rain through the long months of the Gurrulwa Guligi (big wind) and Dalirrgang (build up) seasons, when pretty much every-thing and -one is stagnant with humidity, sweat and dread and when anything, nothing and everything does, can – or doesn’t and can’t – happen. By the time that Dalay (the monsoon) arrives in the last few months of the calendar year the rains and the cooler weather they bring are a welcome respite. And then the seven cycles of the Larrakia calendar start over again.

Through all of this the town needs feeding, industry needs supplies, fishes and prawns are waiting to be caught and brought back to base, exports need to be shipped and tourists from the cruise ships need to have their money drawn carefully from their deep pockets, wallets and purses.

Here are some of the larger industrial ships that come through Darwin harbour. In future parts I’ll look at military, fishing and cruise ships that come through the Port of Darwin.

Enjoy, and please send a message in the comments section below if so minded …

HMAS Canberra
Pleasure boat Lady M
Cruise ship Coral Expeditions
HMAS Melville
Cruise ship Silver Discoverer
Coastal barge Sealink Express
Cruise ship Coral Adventurer