The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin contains very little art. It’s far more about natural science and local culture. You’ll learn a lot about living, and dying, in this part of the world by coming here. Most of its visitors are spending their time in the comprehensive exhibit about Cyclone Tracy, a storm that completely destroyed it. The only other object on display that got this much attention was Sweetheart the Crocodile. This 5 Compass art museum without much art is free.
Sweetheart’s reputation began when it began attacking boats in the 1970s. First attempts to kill this immense saltwater crocodile that was finally identified as a male failed, so it continued to roam free but died an accidental death in 1979. More than 16 feet long and weighing 1720 pounds, Sweetheart was not the largest croc in the estuary. When his attacks became more frequent and it became a good idea to trap and anesthetize him, Sweetheart got entangled with a log and drowned. Stuffed and touring Australia, Sweetheart inspired a movie named Rogue and earned icon status. He now permanently wows browsers in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
When Tracy blew through, the population of Darwin was 48,000. Now, only 44 years later, it’s over 140,000. Minerals and high tech bring people here. Most who died during Tracy were caught in building collapses. Tracy roared into town on Christmas Eve in 1974 and continued on Christmas Day. This was one of those natural disasters, like Katrina, that the passage of time doesn’t ease. People are still talking about it in Darwin.
In this museum you will also see what the inside of a Cathedral termite mound looks like and ogle a box jellyfish up close and well lit. From October to May, Northern Territory residents don’t go into the ocean because the sting of one of these can kill a human in 2 minutes. This still seems to be a risky place to live.
More benign displays showed me beautiful minerals, goannas that were described as the most diverse of Australian reptiles, and a couple of butterflies. Australia has only 5 species of these but 75 types of moths and 53 kinds of parrots. See what I mean about not much art? Below, Rusty Peters “Manambarram” was an exception, but it was up temporarily.