There aren't many Western
cities that can claim on their CVs to be located in the tropics
, or to have been destroyed twice.
Darwin is the administrative and commercial capital of Australia's Northern Territory, situated at the 'top end' of Australia on the Arafura Sea.
In the nineteenth century there were a number of unsuccessful attempts to establish a settlement in the area inhabited by the Larrakia aboriginal people. Eventually Palmerston - later renamed Darwin in honour of Sir Charles Darwin who visted the area in 1839 - was founded as a town in 1869. Darwin managed to survive long enough to witness a gold rush 200 miles south in the the late nineteenth century. This provided enough momentum and population to give the town some semblence of permanency and population, although its population did not hit the five figures until around the 1950s.
Darwin was repeatedly bombed by the Japanese in World War Two, and was devasted by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. In both instances the civilian population of the town was evacuated. It was later used by the United Nations to support peacekeeping operations in East Timor in 1999, a disturbingly short jump across the Arafura, and to support Bali Assist in 2002.
Darwin's population of 80,000 is too small, too isolated (and the weather too unbearable) to support a viable manufacturing industry. Much of Darwin's economy supports mining and pastoral activies in the Northern Territory, as well as a large military and public service presence. Darwin is hoping to see the proceeds of a planned mining operation of natural gas in the Timor Gap in the near future. Compared with other city dwellers in Australia, Darwinians are more likely to be younger, transient and of Aboriginal heritage.
A train line was built to Pine Creek in 1889, which only got connected to Alice Springs and the rest of Australia in 2004. This kind of speaks of how Darwin is seen. Australians dwelling in more temperate climes tend to regard Darwin as far-off plucky outpost of Australia hewn into a tropical jungle; a sentinel watching Asia (nowadays more for commercial than defence opportunities), populated by public servants in sweat drenched shirts. Think Anchorage (one of its sister cities) with crocodiles, and you'll get the picture.
Naming Darwin after the man who is considered (incorrectly) to have devised the notion of survival of the fittest is more than ironic.