WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels

posted in: Northern Territory

After Kakadu we went to Darwin where we ended up staying for nearly two weeks.  We loved Darwin, even in October!  One of the first attractions we visited were the World War II Oil Storage Tunnels.  Darwin was bombed in 1942 during World War II.  There were more bombs dropped on Darwin that day than at Pearl Harbour months before.  Seven of the eleven above ground fuel storage tanks were destroyed during the initial and subsequent bombings.  They decided to create secret, hidden underground tunnels to hold the oil and fuel needed for their aircraft and ships.  Two of the tunnels are now open for tours, one you can only view but one you can walk the entire length of the tunnel. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? These large pipes in the entrance tunnel are ventilation shafts to evacuate fumes from the fuel. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? At the end of the entrance tunnel we found this cute junk man.  He was quite tall.  There were levers you could pull to make him move around a bit.  Next to him was the window into Tunnel 6. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes?WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes?WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? According to the sign Tunnel 6 is 77 metres long.  We couldn’t go inside this one, only admire it through the viewing window. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? These two tunnels were the only commercially used tunnels, used to store kerosene for aviation fuel in the 1950s.  But this tunnel imploded after heavy rains in 1955 and was decommissioned.  See all the water seepage? WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? We moved on to Tunnel 5 which is 172 metres long so more than double the length of the other one. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? All down the length of this tunnel there are signs with information about the tunnels, the war, and life in the Top End at the time of the bombing.  The signs are new and are really well done.  The ruts going down the floor in the middle of the tunnel are to collect water seepage.  The tunnel was all stainless steel lined but the tunnels went without maintenance for thirty years and the floor of the tunnel had rusted.  You can see they’ve cut out the bottom so tourists could walk on the cement underneath. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? Here’s a picture of one of the above-ground storage tanks that was destroyed in the bombing.  There’s a person standing at the bottom of this picture, that gives you an idea of how big they were.  The last tank had only just been completed and filled five days before the bombing.  Nearly all of them were destroyed. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? We laughed at this picture of these military men holding a crocodile.  This one is actually quite a good size to be held like that!  We’ve learned that crocodiles are quite soft.  I wonder how many of them had seen one before being stationed in Darwin. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? The wrecks of six ‘flying boats’, Catalinas, still remain in Darwin Harbour.  A total of 33 were lost, half of them in the initial bombing. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? There’s a gorgeous timeline of Darwin’s history on the wall.  Look at the illustrations underneath, they’ve been cut out of a metal sheet with lights glowing through from behind. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes?WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? There were a total of 64 air raids in Darwin in 1942-43.  They started building the tunnels in 1943.  They were kept a secret from the public until 1992 when they opened for the 50th anniversary of the bombing. WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin | How Many More Minutes? Would you believe the tunnels never stored oil?  Six tunnels were built at a cost way over budget and were never used as intended.  It was hot in there when we visited, I can barely imagine what it was like for the workers who built the tunnels, to do so in the heat and with a steam shovel adding humidity to the air.  And all in secret, too.  This was a very unique tourist attraction, something we’ll always remember about Darwin.

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