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A litte weekend trip to distant countries, on strange oceans

Date: 1930s
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Name: Newspaper clipping
Object No: ANMS0542[018]

User Terms

    The text mentions Oskar Speck and other canoeists such as Herbert Rittlinger, Carl Borra Schweria, Walter Schott, Heinz Peppenberger, and Franz Romer.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Kleine Wochenend keise in ferne Länder, auf fremden Meeren

    Primary title: A litte weekend trip to distant countries, on strange oceans

    • A little “weekend” trip to distant countries, on strange oceans Who doesn’t know them, those masters of the whitewater that populate rivers and lakes each summer, the thousands of men and women finding there rest and relaxation in their sport? Far from the noise and crowds of the big cities they experience the magic of a solitude amongst forest and water, which millions of others search for in vain. And it is this magic which draws the paddlers out there time and again to the most remote bodies of water, and which sees them negotiate fast-flowing rivers and unknown streams in their light and mobile boats. Only forty years ago, collapsible boats were thought of as “madness”. Yet just fifteen years later, they were known to young and old. Even Science used this ideal craft, as it was easy to transport, easy to handle and could be used anywhere. Hugo Bernatzik from Vienna used one on his months-long trips on the lower Danube and in the South Sea, and Colin Roß used a collapsible boat on his research trips. “Este rio sirve, Senor, this river won’t do, no sirve – no…” The words of an age-old Indian went through the German Herbert Rittlinger’s head as he had just managed to reach the shore of the Maranon in his collapsible canoe, 4000m above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, and lay there unconscious for three days. Fast-flowing waters, gurgling whirlpools, steep walls to the left and right, high above just a narrow strip of blue sky- that was what he saw when he woke up. He was forced to give up his original plan to discover the unknown Maranon, one of the tributaries of the Amazon. Indians carried Rittlinger’s boat and equipment to the Huallaga, the second source of the Amazon. The native people call it the murderer among the rivers. Weeks of loneliness amongst the grandiose scenery of the unfathomable and impenetrable rainforest followed. Time and again he encountered “malos passos”, vast and stormy rapids, that required lightning-fast reactions and the skills of a master. One day he reached the lowlands of the Amazon, the “ocean of forests and streams”. Mighty and large the Huallaga pushed on through the interminable lowlands. And after more long weeks, Rittlinger’s boat slipped into the father of all rivers, the Amazon. What no-one had ever managed before, to cross the source area of the largest river area on earth, covering some 1600 kilometres, a sole traveller had accomplished in a collapsible boat. Herbert Rittlinger was not unknown, when he ventured into the valleys of the Maranon just before the Second World War. He was the first European to cross the wild waters of the Eastern Carpathians back in 1932. He went down the Golden Bistritz, tumbling down the valley in rushing cascades and travelled across the mysterious lands of the wild Kurds in Asia Minor on the upper Euphrates. The adventurous trip of another young German, Carl Borra Schweria, started in 1929 where the Mount Robson glacier juts out from the Rocky Mountains to an altitude in excess of 4000m. This nimble vagabond slipped through the foaming waters of the North Thompson River, littered with rocks, where Winnetou and Old Shatterhand once hunted. Then the larger Fraser River gathered up the tiny boat and chased it through its narrow, rocky, steep-sided bed and through the unbridled, raging waters and their back-waves and extensive rapids. One night, a grizzly bear visited Schweria’s cooking area just in front of the tent, eating the provisions for the next few days. But all these dangers did not stop Schweria from being the first to travel down the wild Rio Colorado and down the Grand Canyon in the U.S. a year later. The long distance journeys by collapsible boat were no less adventurous. Walter Schott from Neuburg on the Danube had travelled solo to the Black Sea twice and had travelled the 10 000km to Cairo before, when he set out on a fourth long-distance journey. This time he was covering a distance of 14 000km, across the Mediterranean, along the Euphrates and via Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. Two men from Essen, Teigelkamp and Sturm, covered 16 000km on their roundtrip from the Danube to the Black Sea and back across the Mediterranean. All these achievements were eclipsed, however, by Heinz Peppenberger. He left Germany in 1931 with four friends. Three of the collapsible boat travellers drowned in a storm at Aden, another died in India, and Heinz Peppenberger himself died from a tropical disease in Hong Kong after covering a distance of over 40 000km. The long-distance journey of Rudolf May from Dusseldorf also ended tragically. He attempted the trip from Baghdad through the Hilleh Canal to Basra, together with the American writer Rey Fisher. They set up camp near the village of Diranije on 1 March 1934. Arab robbers attacked them during the night and Fisher was killed there and then. May died from his injuries later that day. In 1932, an enthusiastic canoeist set out on perhaps the most adventurous of all long distance journeys, without creating any publicity. In the most difficult circumstances, the engineer Oskar Speck from Hamburg sailed and paddled in his standard-issue collapsible boat from Ulm down the Danube, across Yugoslavia and on to Greece. From there, he went along the coast of Asia Minor to Syria, down the Euphrates to Basra, and into the Persian Gulf to Bandar Abbas. In 1935, he reached the port of Colombo in Ceylon, via Bombay. Speck then followed the coastline of the Gulf of Bengal, visited Singapore and Surabaya on Sumatra, approaching the Sunda Islands in 1937. On Poeloe Leikor, the intrepid canoeist was attacked by a horde of natives, robbed and badly treated.. After a long convalescence, he was first ready to pick up his paddle again and continue his trip in October 1938, negotiating the dangerous route across the open seas to New Guinea. As late as May 1939, Speck reported home from the former German Protectorate of Port Alexis. Speck’s patience and endurance has been surpassed only once. The naval officer Franz Romer set out to sea from Lisbon in a collapsible boat that was six metres long and 95cm wide (made out of a lightweight wooden skeleton, canvas and covered with a thin rubber layer). The boat was propelled by a paddle and a sail of 5m2. Provisions consisted of 220kg of canned foods and 250l of drinking water. The boat was caught in a huge swell in the first few days and Romer did not sleep for three nights. During the fourth night, the boat was caught in enormous waves and was submerged for most of the time. Further, he was travelling too close to the coast and the water was dangerously shallow. He quickly changed course and when the sun came up he realised that the old course would have put him square on the coast of the Canary Islands. After a few days’ rest in a safe harbour he set out to sea again. He had covered 580 nautical miles already, with 3600 more to go. The courageous seafarer sat squeezed into his boat for hour after hour, his limbs becoming increasingly stiff and paralysed. But after 58 painful days he arrived in the port of St. Thomas in the Lesser Antilles, having braved heavy storms, the unrelenting tropical sun and almost inhuman hardship and suffering. His hair and face were covered in a white layer of salt, his whole body in blisters and sores. But he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a collapsible boat! On his way on to New York, Franz Romer disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic, and all that is left is a small plaque in Rosenheim, Germany as a memory of one of the most outstanding achievements of the collapsible boat. Others tried to do what Romer had done, but the Austrian Theodor Helm’s corpse was washed up on the coast of the Canary islands in1932. The Atlantic seafarer Joseph Richter is still missing without a trace today and in 1931 the ocean proved to the landlubber Engler that it is not easily conquered: after leaving Las Palmas on his way to America, nothing was heard from him again. The collapsible boat has passed its baptism of fire in all parts of the world, completing the most difficult journeys. Its continuous development was only stopped by the Second World War. Even if 1945 put a stop to these most humble of watercraft, more boats are being built now, more sleek and sportier than ever – and unsinkable to boot. And one day borders will reopen and that sense of adventure will lure paddlers back to accomplish new endeavours and sporting achievements. [Caption under the photograph:] The fantastic valley of the Marañon, the tributary to the Amazon, in the mountains of Peru, 4000m above sea level. Rittlinger’s collapsible boat conquered the Amazon.

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