We had driven though Cardwell on our way down to Maitland the first time but hadn’t stopped. This time we took advantage of a MSO stop. It was only about 3ks out of town.
The owner had a very large front yard and as we pulled in early in the afternoon they came out to greet us. We haven’t used too many MSO (Members stop over) camp so we are never quite sure what to do. We talked to the owner for a little while then we headed out after setting up camp. Not far. The owner had told us of the river spot we should go see so off we went. It is always good to have local knowledge.
The spot was Five Mile Creek named because it was five miles out of Cardwell. The area was once a meat works, which was started in 1895. Steamers would come up the river to pick up tallow (hard fatty substance) and hides. In 1902 the meat work closed for good because of drought. Now it is a lovely picnic spot. Adrian decided to test the water. If I take out the expletives of his speech he said “that is cold” when his toe hit the water. He didn’t go for a swim.
We hadn’t been back long when another couple in a RV pulled in. It was around 4 and by 5 the owner had started a fire and we all sat around it having happy hour until the mosquitoes drove me inside. Adrian sat out for a bit longer while I cooked dinner and came in right on time.
We could get TV reception, which the owners were surprised with. No one had been able to get reception before us. We had tested it earlier in the day for a brief moment and everything was fine. At night it was a different matter. The TV didn’t like it when I turned on the lights. I turned off the main lights and turned on the one over the stove the TV was happy with that. It didn’t like Adrian walking into the van. Adrian had to sit down and not move. Why would moving around in the van affect the TV antenna on the roof I don’t know but it did. We watched a movie instead. There was only football on the TV anyway not a big fan. (I know, an Aussie who doesn’t like football. Who would have thought.)
We drove back into Cardwell the next day. Cardwell was the first European settlement north of Bowen and established in 1864. To start with the town was named Port Hinchinbrook but later was re-named Cardwell after RT Hon Edward Cardwell who was a renowned British statesman, he was also, for a time a secretary for the Colonies. It was thought the town would become a thriving port for the area but it just didn’t live up to the idea.
The information centre is connected to the museum. Our host was in the military and he had gifted his old uniforms to the museum so we kept a look out for them. There was a strong military section to the museum as the battle of the Coral Sea took place off the shoreline.
I had heard about the battle of the Coral Sea but I hadn’t connected it to Australia. It all started after the fall of Singapore and the Philippines. New Guinea had been invaded and Darwin had been bombed. It looked like a major confrontation was looming. The idea of drawing an imaginary line dividing the country in two was put forward as a way to defence Australia. Unless you know Australia you don’t know just how harsh and unforgiving she can be. We have over a 1000 different plants that are toxic. Then there are the spiders and snakes. Throw in the dry conditions and the extensive spaces between something and nothing. The invading army would have big problems. Anyway it was decided that dividing the country was not the best strategy to take. On the 1st of May 1942 the carriers USS Yorktown and USS Lexington from the US Navy set sail for the Coral Sea. They were to meet up with the Japanese invasion force believed to be heading to Port Moresby. HMAS Australia and HMAS Hobart also joined the Allied fleet. There were casualties on both sides. It is said that both sides claimed a victory. The Japanese saying it was a tactical victory and the Allies a strategic victory.
Port Moresby was saved for the time being. The next assault on Port Moresby would come by an overland advance from the north coast. The invaders followed the Kokoda Track. One of the main reasons Port Moresby was so import was if it fell it would isolate Australia from the United Sates so cutting the allies’ forces. It could also then be used as a base from where they could invade the mainland Australia.
The Kokoda trail became part of the Australia legend along with the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. I know I am going off course here but the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels were just that, angels. The people of Papua New Guinean went out of their way to help the Australian men and in doing so saved many lives and Australia will always be grateful to them. If you are wondering why they were named the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. It was because of they helpful role they played in the war and their fuzzy hair.
It is thought the Coral Sea battle was a turning point in the war in the Pacific as it marked the first defeat of the advancing Japanese forces.
Part of the museum was the old post office. I wandered in and started to read one of the information boards when I heard a phone ring. To be honest it made me jump. I was the only one in the room so looked around to see where the phone was that was ringing. It was an old fashioned phone attached to the wall making all the noise. It was part of the museum working on a motion detector. Someone walks into the room and the phone would ring. Picking up the receiver a conversation went on between a customer and the person working at the exchange. I lived in the country and I can remember having to go through the exchange when making a phone call. I had also lived in a house where we were on a party line. If anyone received a phone call on the line the phone would ring in every house. You had to listen out for your personal ring, which was made up like Morse code with long and short rings. If you wanted to make a phone call you had to make sure no one else was using the line. How times have changed.
The museum was very well done. There were several different rooms all with a different theme. What I thought would only take about ten minutes took about 2 hours. Yes we did see our host’s uniforms.
Oh if you are wondering why there is a tick on the front gate. That is a cyclone tick given to the museum after Cyclone Yasi (2011). The cyclone hit the area quite hard and the SES volunteers checked the buildings in the town to make sure there was no dangerous damage. The tick is a ‘Safe to enter’ sign. It has been left on the gate as a show of thanks to all the hard work the volunteers did after the cyclone. Nice.
After the museum we walked the town and grabbed a crab burger at the Seaview Café. While it was a nice burger, it I didn’t really taste a lot of crab in it. We had seen the big crab as we drove past the first time so it was fun to stop for a better look the second time.
From there we made our way up to the Coral Sea Memorial Park. The shape of the different planes and ships, which were used in the battle, have been carved into the footpath which goes down to the sea. At the shore there is a glass information board letting you see the ships against the backdrop of the sea.
Then there is the monument to those that were last, with the names listed.
So many names.
We were back on the road again the next day after saying good by to our hosts. Thank you it was a great stay.