Karumba Flying Boat Base - c.1938

The photo above shows the Control Building at Karumba Flying Boat Base, photographed shortly after construction in 1938 or 39. The upper floor contained the Aeradio room, the Met office and the OIC's office.

Karumba, at the mouth of the Norman River in Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria, was established in 1938 as a refuelling base in support of the operation of the Empire flying boat service by Qantas Empire Airways and Imperial Airways from Australia to the United Kingdom. Click here to see a photo from the inauguration of this service.


Control Building

The shot above shows the staff quarters at Karumba with the Control Building in the background. The Norman River with its flying boat moorings was immediately to the right of the photo. The Shell fuel depot was located beyond the Control Building.

In addition to sleeping accommodation, the staff quarters contained a kitchen beneath and a mess upstairs. There was also a small canteen from which staff could purchase daily necessities. The canteen was replenished from the monthly supply ship, which also brought in staple foodstuffs. Fresh vegetables were sent on the regular flying boat from Townsville or Darwin. Fresh meat could be obtained from the local meatworks, but chickens were raised on site and sometimes a cow was obtained from nearby stations, and killed and butchered by the Base personnel.

The normal flying boat schedules meant that Karumba was principally a refuelling stop. However on occasion when an aircraft was required to make an overnight stop, the passengers would also have to be accommodated on the base. If the staff quarters were full, this meant that some would sleep on the verandah of the Control Building!


Control Buildingsupply ship at jettyHF receiver antennaHF receiver antenna

A general view of the Karumba flying boat base from the Shell fuel depot. The nearest of the buildings in the distance is the Control Building, with HF receiver antenna masts out the back near the Base's refrigeration plant. The staff quarters are behind the Control Building and a supply ship is tied up at the Base's jetty.

(Photos: CAHS/Ivan Hodder collection)

Click here to see the next in our series of photos of Karumba flying boat base

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