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Adventure in the Sunda Seas

Date: 7 September 1938
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Newspaper clipping
Object No: ANMS0542[034]

User Terms

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Adventure in the Sunda Seas

    Assigned title: Abenteuer in den Sunda-See

    Translation
    • Adventure in the Sunda Seas Encounters on a journey in a collapsible boat by Oskar Speck 6th instalment At the Natives’ Mercy From Moo I wanted to go directly across to the island of Sermata, but I had to give up this plan because of a strong head wind. So I headed for the island of Lakor instead. I had chosen a small patch of white sandy beach to land on, but I couldn’t take the boat all the way to the beach because there was a coral reef in the way. So I attached the boat to a coral bommie and waded across the shallow water to the beach. There was no sign of human dwellings apart from a few old fire places. While I was still collecting wood for the preparation of my meal, some natives came marching up to me. They were very friendly and helped me carry my boat up on dry land. More and more natives arrived, and soon I had the habitual crowd of curious, all-observing people surrounding me. Some of them spoke a bit of Malay, and so we started if not a proper conversation, then at least a bit of communication about my person and my trip. Lakor is part of the Lethi islands and therefor, like the surrounding islands, strongly influenced by Ambon and Kissar. The population had been converted to Christianity years ago. The natives there are also more used to Europeans and more intelligent and more civilised than the people on Alor or the people living in villages on Timor. Apart from my boat and its equipment, these people were very interested in my Mauser pistol. They started to get quite annoying, especially when, as usual, they began to ask to be given certain parts of the equipment. Their spokesman, a rather intelligent looking fellow, had his eye on my water containers. I explained to them as best I could that I could not possibly do without the water containers, since I needed them for drinking water. They seemed to understand and when I bought a few coconuts and paid well for them, everything seemed to be perfectly all right again. I then asked them for some information about the current and the wind, since these natives, who travel a lot between the island in sailing boats, know a lot about that. They said the best time to cross over to the island of Sermata was around five in the morning. The natives then helped me to carry the boat to a better starting position, and as I was lying down in my boat to sleep, they, too, went back to their dwellings. The spokesman had explained to me that there was a village about an hour away from my landing place. After a few hours’ sleep I suddenly heard a voice. I lifted the tarpaulin, which I had draped over the boat for the night, a little bit and peered out. A group of natives was standing around my boat. I recognised some of them in the moonlight. When I asked what was the matter, I could only make out from the incomprehensible response that the natives thought I should continue on my way now. Still half asleep I explained to them that I could only go at 5 am and that it was now no later than about 11 pm. I also explained that I was tired and that they would have to come back later if they wanted to be there when I would be leaving. Then I lay back down and closed the cover. A few minutes later, when I thought everything was alright and tried to go back to sleep, one of the natives, who had knelt down next to the boat, started to talk to me in a soothing voice, while slowly opening the cover at the same time. That’s when I got really angry. I sat up in the boat suddenly. I had a strange feeling that something was not right. It was only then that I realised that the natives all carried weapons, like spears, sabres and large bush knives. I emphatically told them to leave me alone, or else – pistol ole! With these words I had taken my pistol in hand, even though it wasn’t loaded. I had often enough been in similar situations, where natives had come up to me during the night and would be chased away only by threats, and I thought that the threat with the pistol would be enough to chase them off this time as well. The natives standing closest to the boat had taken a few steps backwards when they saw the weapon. Only the one kneeling directly next to the boat, quite a young man still, didn’t get up and kept on talking, in words I didn’t understand, with his soothing voice. In the instant I put the pistol down again, however, he screamed wildly and put his hands around my neck. At the same time five or six of the natives prevented me from reaching for the weapon again. Within a few seconds, half a dozen natives were clinging to my arms and legs like barnacles. Strong hands were grabbing my hair and even though I managed to free one arm for an instant in my desperate struggle, I soon had to give in to my fate. [A drawing showing a white man being pulled out of a boat with the caption: Within a few seconds the natives were clinging to the attacked like barnacles] I was still half lying in the boat when they tied my arms and legs with belts made from raw buffalo skin. They did this with great brutality. They pulled my hands and my feet together with the same belts, so that I ended up lying there all crooked. While they were still busy tying me up I watched them stealing stuff out of my boat. Then they carried or rather dragged me by the hair along the beach while kicking me with their feet. They put me down only a few feet away from the water. One of the natives had advanced to be their leader. My tropical helmet on his head and my pistol in his hand, he ordered them to move the boat further up the beach. Some sort of ecstasy had come over the natives. They kept on putting their large bush knives up to my neck, indicating they would cut off my head. A few times I tried to bring the natives back to reason. But I realised that each word from me only increased their ecstasy and that silence surely was the best means to stop them from putting their threat into practise. The threat of police and punishment had so incensed their leader that he stood in front of me, swinging the sabre close to my head in his extreme excitement. After a quick chat the majority of them left, leaving me behind with about ten natives to guard me. The only hope I had left then was that the natives might have mistaken me for a spy. If that was the case, I might count on them sending a messenger to the next village in order to notify the guru. [Photo of Speck standing by his boat with a number of natives. Caption:] Islanders “expertly” inspecting the small expedition boat Suddenly one of my guards stood up and came over to where I was. After looking a t me quietly for a moment, he lifted his hand up to summon a mighty punch and hit me on my left ear. Despite being tied up I rose up in pain and the coward actually jumped back a few paces. But then, quite convinced I couldn’t retaliate, he violently kicked me in the head several times. After having spent his fury this way, he returned to the others, who had watched the scene with great interest. When the worst pain had subsided, I realised I couldn’t hear any more in my left ear. I just felt a low buzzing sound; surely my eardrum had burst. As it was getting dark I felt all hope of rescue fade away. After the brutal mistreatment, I might as well have given up any hope of being released by the natives. I had rather mixed feelings about the immediate future. It got cool, and my body was attacked by one bout of the shakes after another. The smallest movement got the blood to start flowing again from where I was tied up around my ankles. After another hour had passed, my guards came up to me again and although I was prepared for the worst now, all they did was to drag me with great effort across to an overhanging rock near my boat. After talking to one another for a few minutes, the natives went off in the same direction the leader had taken. Now I was at last able to try and get rid of my bindings, something I had not dared to even think about before. Even while the natives were dragging me to the new place I noticed that it would be possible to pull my feet out of the ties. Because they had carried me so clumsily, dropping me twice into the sand, one of the twists in the tie around my calf had moved, which had loosened the tie around my feet. To be concluded…
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