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Oskar Speck paddled to Australia in a kayak: A seven year trip

Date: 11 April 1989
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Newspaper
Object No: ANMS0542[036]

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    Description
    Article begins: 'The German Oskar Speck achieved an almost unbelievable feat. Celebrating his 80th birthday today, he arrived in Australia in a 5.50 metre long and just under one metre wide collapsible boat in September 1939. The journey, which began at Ulm on the Danube in May 1932, took seven years. “I survived only due to luck and great skill,” reports Oskar Speck about his journey, which holds the world record and cannot be repeated in the same way. But his trip ended in disappointment: When Speck reached the fifth continent, after covering more than 30,000 nautical miles, Germany had been at war for a few days. Upon his arrival at Saibai in September 1939, Oskar Speck was arrested and interned for seven years....'
    Translation
    • Die Woche, 11 April 1989, page 11 Oskar Speck paddled to Australia in a kayak: A seven-year trip The German Oskar Speck achieved an almost unbelievable feat. Celebrating his 80th birthday today, he arrived in Australia in a 5.50 metre long and just under one metre wide collapsible boat in September 1939. The journey, which began at Ulm on the Danube in May 1932, took seven years. “I survived only due to luck and great skill,” reports Oskar Speck about his journey, which holds the world record and cannot be repeated in the same way. But his trip ended in disappointment: When Speck reached the fifth continent, after covering more than 30 000 nautical miles, Germany had been at war for a few days. Upon his arrival at Saibai in September 1939, Oskar Speck was arrested and interned for seven years. Oskar Speck started at Ulm in May 1932, paddling along the Danube as far as the Varda in his collapsible boat. “That river was waiting to be travelled on for the first time. So I took the boat to Skopje on the upper Varda and went as far as Veljes,” said Oskar Speck describing his trip. At Veljes, the boat needed repair. The rubber hull was in shreds and a few ribs were broken. Speck sent the boat to the manufacturer at Bad Tölz. By the time he received it back, the Varda had frozen over and he was forced to wait until March 1933. One week later, at Saloniki, the man born and bred in Hamburg was forced to make a great adjustment: to sail on the ocean in a collapsible boat, the paddling turned into sailing. “The important thing was to keep the rudder in the water at all times. Using the foot paddles and the sailing line I had an amazing amount of control over the boat, which weighed 32 kg.” Speck said. However, Oskar Speck needed to be incredibly watchful to avoid large waves and to keep the little nut shell into the wind at all times. Said Speck: “Many times I was unable to eat and unable to sleep. The moment I stopped manoeuvring the boat, I started being driven back immediately.“ Oskar Speck made his way from one island to another, via Mykonos and Rhodes among others, all the way across to the coast of Turkey, which he reached in May 1933. Travelling around Cyprus, he continued to Latakya in Syria, from where Speck travelled overland all the way to Meskens on the upper Euphrates. The German paddled along the Euphrates down to Basra on the Shatt-al-Arab and crossed the Persian Gulf to Bushire. Speck:” I wrote to the boat manufacturers from Basra, asking them to send me another boat to Bandar Abbas. By mistake the boat was sent to Bandar Shapur instead and remained there. It took three months for the boat to finally arrive at Bandar Abbas. In the meantime Speck suffered his first bout of malaria. After that he had malaria almost all the time. It was finally cured only during his internment in Australia. In the new boat Speck paddled to the island of Hormuz, then continuing along the coast to Baluchistan and on to Karachi in India. “In Baluchistan the surf was so huge that I could return to land only with extreme difficulty,” Speck remarked. His boat capsized ten times altogether, always in huge waves, on the coast as well as on the high seas. [Photo of Oskar Speck with the caption:] The 80-year old Speck today on the patio outside his house at Kilcare Just like all other river mouths, the mouth of the river Indus presented huge dangers, but Speck was experienced and had gained a lot more skill, mastering these currents as well. His journey took him via Potbander, Diu and Daman all the way to Bombay, then along the Malabar Coast to Colombo, where he arrived at three in the afternoon on 13 May 1935. This story is from the Journal “200 Years of History of the German Community in Australia”. It is available for the special price of 2 for $8 plus postage from internews, 1-3 Seddon Street, Bankstown, NSW, 2200.
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