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Arrested and interned after 30000 nautical miles

Date: 2 May 1989
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Name: Newspaper
Object No: ANMS0542[038]

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    • Die Woche, 2 May 1989, page 11 Arrested and interned after 30 000 nautical miles 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,” reported Oskar Speck about his journey, which holds the world record and cannot be repeated in that 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. There he taught himself to cut opals and made small pieces of jewellery for the guards. This way he earned the money to prepare his escape from the internment camp. “I had sixteen days of freedom”, said Speck, describing his spectacular escape. At night our tools were packed away into big crates, which were then transported out of the camp. I slipped into one of the crates and made my way from Tatura to Melbourne. There I bought a bicycle, which I was pushing along quietly. Suddenly a police patrol car stopped next to me. I told them my name was “Schmidt”, but the policeman took my hat off and said: “You are Speck!” After that I spent 28 days in solitary confinement. [Copies of passport entries with the caption:] The passport with the last entries “Arrived at Daru by kayak 9.30am on 5/9/39. Departed en route Thursday Island morning the 5/9 39” (above) and a selection of ports Speck visited in 1938. His internment lasted seven years. After his release, Speck first moved to the opal fields at Lightning Ridge. Later, he started a business. Oskar Speck, born on 4 March 1907 in Hamburg-Altona, withdrew to his country estate in 1974, where this still youthful and active collapsible boat paddler enjoys his retirement. The end 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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