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by Ken Newey
My dad and I traveled to Darwin from Adelaide for a two week holiday in August 1974. The drive from Adelaide via the Stuart Highway is a story in itself. One thing led to another and I ended up living there for the next 23 years.
I was only 9 years old at the time and don't remember a lot about the 4 mths before the cyclone other than Darwin was a very friendly and casual place (and the fishing!) - you never had to lock your doors and there always seemed to be someone visiting. Being a kid with a bike there was plenty of exploring to do around the mangroves and rocky headlands along the Nightcliff foreshore near where I lived.
I remember during the month of December 1974, it seemed to me there were plenty of cyclone warnings - but nothing ever eventuated. I recall saying to my friend "I wish a cyclone would come" - whoops. You know the saying - careful what you wish for.
I don't really remember the arrival of the cyclone as an event of any sort - other than there was some pretty wild weather on the night. I even drove with my dad down to Stokes Hill wharf and onto Fort Hill wharf at around 11pm that night. The actual wharf seemed to be rocking in wild seas and even though it was supposed to be low tide, the waves were nearly coming over the top. On the way home there were trees down across the road.
The night itself was a bit of a blur. I remember sitting in our lounge room (we lived in an upstairs flat on Bamboo St. in Nightcliff, Dad and I and our Great Dane) watching the ceiling flexing and trickles of water starting to run down the walls. It was at that point that dad decided we should get out. With our dog under one arm and me under the other dad took us downstairs and into the flat underneath. I remember we had only just got in, I had sat down, when there was a huge crash - it was our roof coming off! During the eye of the cyclone dad also helped the guys whose flat we where sheltering in tie their cars to a pole - they were apparently starting to move. That's all I really remember of the night.
The next morning however was a bit of a shock. To put it bluntly there was shit everywhere. We drove around a bit in the morning and had to cut powerlines that were dangling across the road - obviously there was no power running.
My memory of the cyclone is pretty relaxed - probably too young at the time to comprehend fully - thankfully not as traumatic as it has been for others. I don't live in Darwin anymore - and to be honest it has changed a fair bit over the years and doesn't quite hold that same appeal for me.
The biggest impact the cyclone has on me is I can't believe it was nearly 35yrs ago.
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