Saturday, March 28, 2009 Cruising Day 13 Darwin

Today is Darwin, in the Top End of Australia. We arrived at 0800 and got our our 40+ year old male tour bus by 8:45. Our first stop was Crocodylus, a crocodile farm/research station outside Darwin. Seeing those creatures up close certainly makes you heed the warnings

in the Top End about not swimming in rivers, lakes and many of the beaches.

Darwin’s harbour is larger than Sydney although only a small Downtown Darwin and fishing harbour percentage of the area is used. Darwin has a fascinating past, including being bombed more heavily than Pearl Harbour in WWII, being destroyed in 2 cyclones (1948 and 1974) and being the lightning capital of the world. One particular day saw over 1500 strikes hit the city! As a result though it is now a thoroughly modern city with ambitious expansion plans. The main industry relates to LNG processing, with another large plant starting construction this year, with a working life of 40 years. One unfortunate side effect is inflation in land and house prices.

The crocodile research station provided several interactive features, how 5 yr old going for a chicken leg crocodiles feed and what their skin feels like. A chicken provides enough food for a mature crocodile to live on for a week. Excellent jumpers, a 4m crocodile can easily launch itself out of the water vertically from deep water. So climbing a tree to escape one might not be enough. the crushing force of the movable lower jaw is staggering, a pig’s head would shatter like a water melon.

 

WW II Strauss Airfield, NT We also visited Lichtfield National Park to see 2 of the many waterfalls in the area. On our way there (long bus ride reminding us that ‘flat-bum’ is a recurring affliction) we passed at least 5 WWII airfield remains. They have kept these in place along the Stuart Highway as a reminder of that era.

The water falls were well worth the trip. Due to tidal timings for ship  Wangi Falls Florence Fallsdeparture, our time in the park was limited so no swimming in the pool at Florence Falls. Wangi Falls pool was closed due to crocodile activity. Wangi Falls are viewed from below while Florence Falls are viewed from above. Depending on the crocodile situation both have swimming at the bottom of the falls.

Magnetic Termite hillIMGP3341The other fascinating thing we stopped to see was termite mounds. These massive things are a bit like icebergs, only the top 1/3 is visible.  Pat took a photo of a "Green Ant" nest.  The nest was located about 12 feet up a tree and look a real nasty ting – it’s as large as a huge Hornets nest.

On the way back we ran over several "Cane Bull Frogs".  137 of these frogs were introduced to NW Australian to get rid of a beetle, however, the frogs couldn’t get pass the hard shell but did go to eat other insects.  These frogs are slowly devastating the small animals in NWA.  It’s projected there’s over 1/2 million of them now and they are eating they’re way to the coast line at approximately 50 kilometres per year.  People are actually asked to kill them if seen (by running over them, hitting them with a 2×4 or squishing them – ugh).

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