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Paper with handwritten annotation

Date: 1930s
Dimensions:
Overall: 200 x 145 x 1 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Paper
Object No: 00047952

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    Description
    From 1932 to 1939 Oskar Speck paddled and sailed a small folding canvas kayak (folbot) more than 50,000 kilometres from Ulm on the Danube River in Germany to Saibai Island in the Torres Strait. Arriving shortly after World War II was declared in 1939 Speck was interned in Australia for more than six years. This model of the folding kayak SUNNSCHIEN, fashioned primarily from copper, was made by a fellow internee at the Tatura internment camp in Victoria during the war.
    HistoryOskar Speck grew up in post-World War I Germany. As a young man he became an electrical contractor, employing 21 people. In 1932 Weimar Germany was hit hard by the Depression and his factory was forced to close, making Speck one of millions of unemployed.

    Aged 25, Speck took a bus to the Danube River in Ulm, climbed into his kayak SUNNSCHIEN and paddled down river heading to Cyprus to work in the copper mines. He travelled through Austria, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey on his way to the Mediterranean. By the time he reached Cyprus he had given up on the idea of mining work. He preferred to keep going and see the world, describing his kayak as a 'first class ticket to everywhere'.

    Speck began his voyage to Australia in the small two-person collapsible kayak, modified to make space for his supplies: a compass, charts, water tanks, condensed milk, tinned meat and sardines, clothes, camera and a pistol. For the ocean voyage a small gaff sail and foot-operated rudder were fitted to supplement the traditional paddle power. Speck would be hugging the coastline wherever possible and return to the shore at night to sleep.

    From Cyprus 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. After receiving a new kayak from Pionier Faltboot Werft, who supplied four kayaks over the seven year period and became his main sponsor, Speck paddled for Burma, on to Thailand and Malaysia, arriving in Indonesia in 1937. In Java he acquired a 16mm cine-camera to complement his still camera and document his voyage and the cultural diversity of the people he encountered.

    It was in Lakor, Indonesia, that Oskar Speck ran into serious trouble with local tribesmen. He was woken one night by 20 people armed with spears, swords and machetes who dragged him from his kayak and tied him up while his supplies was looted. Speck was hit and kicked in the head, resulting in a burst ear drum. After several hours he was able to loosen his bindings, retrieve some of his property including his clothing, films and camera and slip back into his kayak.

    Speck then progressed on to Dutch New Guinea, filming local communities along the way. It was when he reached Daru (New Guinea) that he learnt Australia was at war with Germany. Speck was allowed to travel into Torres Strait and on to Thursday Island where, in September 1939, he was arrested as an enemy alien. His unexpected arrival with a camera during wartime raised questions of his acting as a German agent. After being interrogated by Police, Speck was sent to an internment camp where he stayed until the end of the war in 1945.

    Speck never returned to Germany. On his release he travelled to Lightning Ridge to learn the opal cutting trade before moving to Sydney. He died in 1995.

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