Lonely Planet Writer

Virtual reality brings the Darwin bombing to life in new historical attraction

The bombing of Darwin was one of the blackest days in Australia’s history, and immortalised in the famous Baz Luhrmann film ‘Australia’. Now a new visitor attraction will bring the day’s events to life using cutting edge technology including holographic images and virtual reality.

A preview of the virtual reality content in the new attraction.
A preview of the virtual reality content in the new attraction.

The new visitor centre opened last week at Stokes Hill Wharf in the city with a promise that some of the tech being used has never been seen before at a museum. It includes holograms telling the story of Etheridge Grant, the commanding officer of a US destroyer, who watched the Darwin bombing from the water after being blown out of a small boat while trying to return to his ship.

Actors were enlisted and dressed in period costumes so that visitors can see exactly how the day would have unfolded in real time using virtual reality headsets. Other exhibits include a Mitsubishi Zero Japanese war plane and a 250kg bomb (of the type used in the attack) that has been cut away to show its inner mechanism.

The explosion of an oil storage tank during the Japanese air raid.
The explosion of an oil storage tank during the Japanese air raid. Image by RAN Historical Collection

Also on display will be a window depicting Darwin Harbour in 1942 that comes to life to show what happened during the attack, which killed 236. There are also holograms of then Prime Minister John Curtin, a Japanese fighter pilot, and a nurse from the Royal Flying Doctor Service who helped treat victims. Two giant screens also tell the story of where the flying doctor aircrafts went throughout the day of the Darwin bombing and recount the experiences of the wounded.

Tony Mayell of the local tourism authority said: “Visitors will be transported back in time to Darwin on 19 February 1942 and experience what it was like on that fateful day … the largest ever single attack mounted on Australia by a foreign power.

“[So] if you want to learn more about Australia’s war history – the Northern Territory is the place to come. Military tourism is a growing trend with more and more people visiting memorials, exhibitions and events.”