Karumba Flying Boat Base - c.1938

In 1938 DCA opened a new Flying Boat Base at Karumba, at the mouth of the Norman River in Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria, as a refuelling stop on the Empire Air Route from Australia to Britain. The Base supported the Empire flying boat service by Qantas Empire Airways and Imperial Airways. Click here to see a photo from the inauguration of this service. The next stop to the west was at Groote Eylandt, then Darwin, while the next stop to the east was at Townsville (see map below).

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


Control Building

The photo above shows the Barracks 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 and the Shell fuel depot was located beyond the Control Building.

The Barracks provided dormitory sleeping accommodation for the 'men' in the near wing, and individual rooms for the 'officers' in the far wing. Additionally, the Barracks contained a kitchen beneath and a mess upstairs, located in the central part of the building. 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. In the pre-war years fresh vegetables were sent on the regular flying boat from Townsville or Darwin. Chickens were raised on site and cattle were obtained from nearby stations, and killed and butchered by the Base personnel for fresh meat.

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 Barracks were full, this meant that some would sleep on the verandah of the Control Building!


Control Buildingsupply ship at jettyHF receiver antennaHF receiver antenna

Above: A general view of the Karumba Flying Boat Base from top of the fuel tank at 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 building. The Barracks 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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