History of Darwin
Darwin was founded in 1869 and was originally called Palmerston before being renamed Port Darwin in 1911. The harbour was discovered in 1839 by the Captain of the Beagle, John Lort Stokes, who named it after a former shipmate, British evolutionist Charles Darwin.
The town's growth was accelerated when gold was discovered at Pine Creek, 200 km south, in 1871.
Darwin was the scene of the first enemy attack on Australian soil during WWII.
At 0958 hours on 19 February 1942, a strike force of 188 carrier-borne Japanese aircraft dropped the first bombs on Darwin, killing 243 people, including 49 civilians, and wounding 300-400. That first air raid destroyed many public buildings, including the post office (where 9 people perished after a direct hit on the bomb shelter). Eight allied ships were sunk in Darwin Harbour and 24 allied aircraft were destroyed. A second enemy air raid at noon that day targetted the Darwin RAAF base.
Between February 1942 and October 1943, the Japanese launched more than 60 air raids over Darwin.
Darwin was also the scene of the biggest airlift in Australian history after Cyclone Tracy devastated the city in the early hours of Christmas Day 1974. Cyclone Tracy killed 66 people and injured thousands more. Many of those who died or were injured were struck by flying debris. Others perished in ships sunk in the harbour.
More than 30,000 of the city's then 43,000 people were evacuated to cities and towns all over Australia immediately after the devastation of Tracy. But Darwin is a hard place to stay away from and most have come back to resume their lives here. A massive post-cyclone rebuilding program gradually turned Darwin into the most modern capital city in the nation.