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Adventure in the Sunda Seas: Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck

Date: 6 September 1938
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Newspaper clipping
Object No: ANMS0542[033]

User Terms

    Oskar Speck serialised his adventures for much needed funds. In this fifth instalment, 'Abenteuer in der Sunda-See; Erlebnisse auf einer Falbootfahrt von Oskar Speck' [Adventure in the Sunda Seas: Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck] he recalls visiting villages on the island of Alor before crossing the Strait of Ombai to Timor. The photographs show a spear fisherman from the village of Erana wearing goggles and the village chief from Pantar performing a war dance.
    SignificanceThis newspaper clipping 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

    Primary title: Abenteuer in der sunda-see; erlebnisse auf einer falbootfahrt von Oskar speck

    Web title: Adventure in the Sunda Seas: Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck

    • Adventure in the Sunda Seas Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck 5th instalment War dance in pyjamas The following day I arrived in Kalabahi on the island of Alor. I was welcomed by the local official in the friendliest manner and invited to stay in his house. After I had spent a few days there, he invited me to accompany him on an inspection trip to Pantar. I gladly accepted, and so we started out one morning in a motor boat. We arrived in Kabir around lunchtime. Immediately, there was great excitement in the whole village. We set ourselves up as well as possible in the Pasangrahan (town hall). While the official was dealing with official matters, I went for a little stroll to look at the scenery. Everywhere I looked, the people from Pantar were preparing building material for houses. This is a relatively simple task, since, apart from a few main beams made of raw tree trunks, the houses consist only of bamboo and are covered with Ylang-Ylang. The bamboo is skilfully split before it is woven into walls, which are then tied to the bamboo structure with reeds. [Photograph of a little boy with the caption:] A fisherman and his goggles made from wood and glass The natives on the Sunda Islands, apart from paying a small tax per head, which generally amounts to no more than two Guilders per year, must work for the Government for one month per year. All roads and official buildings were built that way. They do not get paid for this kind of work, but they do get their food for free. The next morning we continued. First by motorboat for a small distance, and then, starting out from a small village, towards the inland of Pantar. After marching for about five hours, a group of village elders from the village where we had decided to take a rest came to meet us. They were playing their recorders all the way to the village and there we were received by another group of boys with bamboo recorders and drums. The house where we were to rest was of the same kind as the previous one, if not even more sparsely decorated. The only furniture were a few bamboo camp beds and a few bamboo rods that had mosquito nets attached to them. The village elders took us as far as the border of their region again, where we were met by the people from the next village. After three hours’ march, a group of locals joined us who were each carrying a thick bamboo staff filled with water. The village we were about to visit had run out of water and the natives had to fetch water for the visitors to drink and to wash with from a far-away reservoir. At our arrival at the village we were greeted by a beautiful and quite effective war dance. The village chief appeared as a rather comical figure during the dance as he was leading the dance with a sword in his hand. He could have made the whole thing appear rather savage if he hadn’t put on a pair of Japanese pyjamas for the occasion. When the war dance had finished, we handed over the presents we had brought, which mainly consisted of a few colourful bracelets and some tobacco. A few days after returning I left Kalabahi and paddled through the strait of Ombai, stopping on the coast of Alor. Due to bad weather, I didn’t get very far on the first day, stopping for the day in the early afternoon. The bay where I landed was uninhabited. Near where I landed I discovered a few Nagas in the shape of ships and many drawings on rock [illegible]. The next day I arrived at Koewi, a fishing village that used to be of considerable importance for the trade with Timor. The village is located in a very picturesque position on top of a rock. Even though Koewi is inhabited virtually only by Christians, there are many signs of idolatry to be found there. I also visited quite a few other small villages, but the conditions there were all very similar to Koewi. I stayed for four days at the village of Poeremann. The weather was very stormy and the crossing to Timor therefor out of the question. Many of the villages on the south coast of Alor are connected to Kalabahi by telephone. At one point I wanted to phone the official. That’s when I realised the phones had been out of order for months. During the first evening I spent in Poeremann, the locals performed a dance in my honour. Using a spear to catch fish From Poeremann I went to the last village on Alor before attempting the crossing to Timor. The village was called Erana and consisted only of a few huts and a board, erected on the only village road, announcing that Erana had a population of 31 Orangs. Here I observed one of the strangest and certainly the most difficult methods for catching fish. The men grabbed a long, thin bamboo pole, at the end of which there was an iron tip with hooks, as a weapon and swam about 300 metres out to sea in groups of three or four. They were wearing a pair of goggles which they had made themselves from wood and ordinary window glass. Diving down repeatedly, they looked for fish, piercing what they found with their spear. They then took the fish off the spear and put it into a sling which they were wearing around their neck while swimming. An enormous amount of perseverance in swimming and diving and exceptional speed were required for them to catch their daily food. The natives in Erana were very friendly and gave me a few little bags woven from palm leaves, containing rice. These bags had been half filled with rice and then suspended in boiling water, which made them full to bursting point. They are the perfect food supply for travel. Then came the crossing to Timor via the strait of Ombai. During the seven hour-trip I was carried 40km off course by the current. I had to work very hard to make up this loss paddling along the coast of Timor. Three days later I arrived in Timor Dilly, the main port in Portuguese Timor. [Photo of some natives with the caption:] Natives doing their dances during my trip through Pantar Since there was a very strong and constant wind from the east, there was no point continuing my journey before the Eastern monsoon had ended. That’s why I stayed in Timor Dilly for a whole two months, having found an excellent host in the only compatriot that existed in the whole of Portuguese Timor. The first Portuguese had entered Timor about 400 years ago. Even though Portuguese administration didn’t start immediately at that point, European influence on this country nevertheless dates back to this time. The soil is fertile and rich in minerals. Today, Japanese influence is becoming more prevalent. I had the opportunity to be present when a new Governor arrived. All the various tribes of natives had come to Dilly to greet him. The dancing continued for nights on end and the sound of the gongs seemed to go on interminably. Reception with a knife From Dilly I went along the north coast of Timor. From Manatuto and Baukau I went as far as Lauteng. There I stayed for a few days before continuing across to the island of Lehti, which is under Dutch administration again. The night before the crossing I was woken up by a few natives. They had caught a giant turtle and wanted to know if I would buy its shell from them. In the morning I had to witness them killing the animal which had already been spending several hours on its back and was quite exhausted by then. They used every last part of the turtle. They collected the blood and thickened it quite expertly inside bamboo poles. The inner organs were filled with blood and bits of meat straight away and made into sausages. The upper shell was placed over a hollow in the sand in which they had started a fire producing a lot of smoke, and then they carefully separated the shell using bamboo sticks that had been shaved thin. I was given my share of the sausage, but declined and cooked myself a very tasty turtle soup from a few pieces of meat and liver. Arriving on Lethi, I was received in the village where I landed with much excitement. Unfortunately these people, who were a great deal more civilised than the Timorese, were not particularly friendly. One of the natives even threatened me with a knife, while another threw stones at me. Lethi and the surrounding islands belong to the region of Kissar, an island, on which a few hundred years ago a division of Dutch soldiers was left behind and forgotten. They then mixed with the native population of Kissar. All these islands were converted to Christianity many years ago and belong to the Protestant “Indian Kerk”. From Lethi I went on to the Island of Moo the next day. The people were not very friendly there either, and it cost me a great deal of effort to convince one of the natives to cut up the coconuts I had bought from him so that I could drink the juices. He asked for extra payment for this, an imposition I had not come across ever before during my whole journey. To be continued… On the back of the page: Sporty Girl – Elegant Lady Introducing the new winter fashions The fashion head quarters of the German Ladies’ Fashion Trade will hold a grand fashion parade in the Marble Hall at Hotel Esplanade, allowing a glimpse of the beautiful autumn and winter outfits. The national president of the guild, Agnes Schultz, made some comments on the new German approach to fashion at the press preview. [Photo] In the coming fashion parade: Oriental influences are present in rich embroidered patterns using pearls, sequins, and gold metal, as seen on the front of this dark jacket with new loose sleeves gathered at the wrist. – Lively stripes form an interesting diagonal pattern on the front of this wool dress, available with a matching coat the lining of which is in the same pattern of diagonal stripes.
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