Karumba Flying Boat Base - c.1938

The HF transmitter building and antenna mast at Karumba, located 1 mile inland from the Aeradio site on the banks of the Norman River.

These photos were taken shortly after the Flying Boat Base was constructed in 1938.

One of the original Karumba Aeradio operators, John G 'Johnny' Walker recalls the early days of Karumba flying boat base:

"In August 1938 when I arrived, construction by the Dept of the Interior was under way...I was at that time employed by AWA Ltd and was so employed for another 13 months or so. I was originally appointed to Groote Eylandt. I had no idea of the geographic position of this place except I knew that AWA notices advised the magnetic variation. By following the curve on a variation chart I was able to get some idea of the location. However, at the last moment it was changed to Karumba. A day and a bit in a flying boat with an overnight stop in Townsville. On arrival there was Bob Chamberlain in charge of Aeradio and another man called Hudson whom I was to replace. Why he was moved out AWA might know. I do know that he fell through the transmitter building roof whilst it was under construction.

"There was also an AWA engineer called Ringrose. I think that apart from our Aeradio duties we were supposed to assist him. I know I was all over those 150 ft masts at the transmitter site pulling wires through conduit for the obstruction lights. I also assisted in the calibration of the Bellini-Tosi Direction Finder by marching around in the bush with a compass and an oscillator. It turned out to be a pretty good DF too. Later on - about 1940 a Mr Vern Kenna, a PMG engineer, put in the HF DF which wasn't much good and caused a doubling of staff with one on watch at the base and another at the HF DF.

"Anyway, we got another Aeradio operator in the form of Frank Brandon who, after about 12 months, was transferred to Salamaua in New Guinea and he was replaced by Wal Dempsey. Chamberlain was replaced by Eric Pearson.

"All the AWA operators joined the DCA as temporary staff on 1 September 1939 and were made permanent in 1941. The callsign was VHKA, changed later to VZKA."


Staff taking part in the construction of the Karumba Flying Boat Base photographed on the steps of the staff quarters, L-R: Bob Chamberlain, Aeradio OIC; Bob Ringrose, AWA installing engineer; Vern Kenna, PMG engineer who brought up test gear to check the station's performance; Vance Deering, Met Officer; Ivan Hodder, DCA Radio Inspector; Johnny Walker, Aeradio operator. The cook is peering out from behind the stairs.


Left: Vance Deering, the Karumba meteorologist, about to launch a wind-finding balloon.

(Photos: CAHS/Ivan Hodder collection)

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