Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Carrying Oskar Speck's canoe ashore at Orokolo

Date: 1939
Overall: 79 x 54 mm, 1 g
Medium: Silver gelatin print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Wendy Baldock
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00037631

User Terms

    This photograph depicts Oskar Speck's canoe being carried by ten boys through shallow water at Orokolo, Papua New Guinea, in September 1939. It is thought that this photograph was taken by Stan Dewdney or his wife Madie.

    Minister Stan Dewdney had been a missionary in the Orokolo district pf Papua New Guinea since 1934. Stan first met Oskar Speck when he investigated a report that a stranger in a damaged canoe had landed nearby. Stan arranged for Oskar and the canoe to be brought to Orokolo where the rudder was repaired. Speck stayed two days before setting off again.
    SignificanceThis photograph relates to the remarkable story of Oskar Speck, who undertook an epic seven-year, 50,000 km voyage from Germany to Australia in his five-and-half metre collapsible kayak SUNNSCHIEN (SUNSHINE).
    HistoryWhen German electrical contractor Oskar Speck's business closed during the economic turmoil of the early 1930s, he decided to paddle down the Danube River in his five-and-half metre collapsible kayak SUNNSCHIEN (SUNSHINE) and head to Cyprus to find work. On 18 June 1932, aged 25, Speck departed from Ulm, Germany and eventually made his way through Austria, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and eventually to the Mediterranean. Upon reaching Cyprus, Speck decided rather than find work, he would continue his adventure describing his kayak as a "first class ticket to everywhere".

    Speck headed for Syria and from there across to Iran and Pakistan. By 1935, three years after leaving Germany, he had reached India and Sri Lanka. Speck paddled onward to Burma, Thailand and Malaysia, and arrived in Indonesia in 1937. There he acquired a 16mm cine-camera which allowed him to film the remainder of his voyage. Speck then progressed on to Dutch New Guinea. He arrived on Saibai Island (in the Northern Torres Strait) with a swastika pennant flying from the bow of his 5.3 metre German built Folbot kayak only a few days after Australia declared war with Germany.

    As Speck was travelling on a German passport, he was promptly arrested as an enemy alien on his arrival on Thursday Island (in the Western Islands of the Torres Strait off Cape York Peninsula). Speck was detained at the Tatura internment camp in Victoria, and after escaping and being recaptured he was sent to the Loveday Internment camps in South Australia for the duration of the war.

    Speck never returned to Germany. On his release he travelled to Lightning Ridge to learn the opal cutting trade before settling in Sydney. He died in 1993.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Carrying Oskar Speck's canoe ashore at Orokolo

    Assigned title: Boys carrying Oskar Speck's canoe ashore at Orokolo

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.