Daly Waters is a small settlement halfway between Dunmarra and Larrimah, 230km from Katherine and 388km from Tennant Creek. Daly Waters is very pleasant with prolific birdlife and wildlife and much history.
The Daly Waters area has traditionally been the country of the Yangman Aboriginal people. They were known for their well constructed wurlies – some over 4 metres in circumference with timber frames and thatched with grass, "like an old fashioned English beehive".
During the epic crossing of Australia by John McDouall Stuart's Expedition, a tree at Daly Waters was blazed with Stuart’s initials. It was to celebrate crossing through the notorious lancewood and bulwaddy scrub that had tore their hands and clothes to pieces. Their horses despised it. The old tree can still be seen.
Ten years later the overland telegraph line across Australia was built following Stuart’s trail. The last section was finally joined near Frew's Ponds, just south of here and a pony express ran between the two ends for a time. Daly Waters' telegraph station was built next to Stuart’s tree. The buildings are long gone.
Daly Waters was a welcome stop for drovers shifting cattle from stations to market. It was the last reliable watering hole before starting the perilous Meranji Stock Route.
Around 1928, the Pearce family settled in Daly Waters. They built a home styled for coolness and opened a store which eventuated into a hotel to serve travellers.
Daly Waters became an international airport in 1930 when the Larkin Aircraft Supply Company won a mail contract. They built the Sydney Williams hanger.
During the war civilians were evacuated from enemy territory via Broome and Daly Waters. As the Japanese advanced, at times up to six aircraft every fifteen minutes flew into Daly Waters.
The RAAF hospital unit arrived at Daly Waters in March 1942 and took over Pearce’s hotel, setting up a ward and a mobile surgical unit. The hospital later moved to the Five Mile Waterhole where a 100 bed facility was established. The hospital relocated to Coomalie, closer to Darwin after a time.
One of the young American pilots, stationed at Daly Waters recorded in his diary that Daly Waters was the worst place he’d ever seen. “It’s just an airfield stuck out in the middle of nothing. The heat and flies are terrible. Luckily the mosquitos aren’t bad. I had to sleep on the wing of my plane tonight. They told us we would be living with our aeroplanes, but I didn’t expect it to mean this close".
Courtesy Hanger displays