The chisel is misshapen by rust over the many wet seasons it spent underground. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
A builder restoring a memorial site in Darwin has uncovered a rusting chisel likely belonging to his predecessor a century ago.
The Ross Smith Memorial overlooks Darwin Harbour on the Fannie Bay foreshore, and commemorates the first aerial flight from England to Australia in under 30 days.
Restorative works are underway ahead of the 100-year anniversary of the 1919 flight landing in Darwin, and builder Clayton Dwyer was removing a slab of concrete at the site when he made the discovery.
“We were having a dig along underneath the footings, just to have a look at how it was all made and something was out of place,” he said.
“We pulled it up and had a look at it and hit it with a hammer and it’s an original chisel, we believe.”
Clayton Dwyer showed the object to the Department of Tourism and Culture’s Michael Wells. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
This is not the first surprise historical item unearthed in recent weeks — in fact, unexploded WWII ordnance is scattered across the Top End.
But as a builder, Mr Dwyer recognised the object and believed it might have been left there deliberately.
“It’s not uncommon on projects that are going to be around for a while to leave something behind for someone else to find at a later date,” he said.
“This one we found in the absolute middle of the monument, due north, under the ground, under the original surface, so if it was just dropped there I doubt it wouldn’t have been found at the time.”
The metal artefact is about 20 centimetres long and has been misshapen by rust over the many wet seasons it has spent underground.
According to Michael Wells from the Department of Tourism and Culture’s heritage branch, it almost certainly belonged to Alexander Crerar, the stonemason who created the monument in 1923.
“With objects like this, they just become a fulcrum around which you can get an insight into the past,” Mr Wells said.
“This gives a wonderful insight into the inter-war period in Darwin and the work of Alexander Crerar.”
Clayton Dwyer took a seat and stared out over the harbour — something his predecessor may have done. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
Mr Wells will approach the Museum and Art Gallery of NT to see if it is interested in adding it to a collection.
The similarities between Crerar and himself were not lost on Mr Dwyer.
“I had a laugh when I saw it, to be honest, then grabbed it and sat on the monument to think about it,” he said.
“I looked over the harbour and thought, well, there’s something I’ve got in common with this guy.
“I’m sure he did the same thing.”