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Letter from Oskar Speck to his friend Elli

Date: 25 January 1937
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Letter
Object No: ANMS0534[007]

User Terms

    This letter was written by Oskar Speck in Semerang Indonesia to his friend Elli. He tells that has been well received, and has given some talks, and plans to go to Australia via various islands.
    SignificanceThis letter 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

    Assigned title: Letter from Oskar Speck to his friend Elli in Semerang Indonesia

    Web title: Letter from Oskar Speck to his friend Elli

    • Semerang 25.1.1937 Dear Elli, At last I have time to answer your letter. Have left Batavia again and am expecting to arrive in Surabaya on 10th. February. There are a lot of Germans in the Dutch Indiesa and all receive me most obligingly. In Batavia I was issued an invitationinvited by by tthe Cchancellor atof the consulate toand spendt some days in the mountains with the Cconsul Ggeneral, which I did. There have been quite some changes in the past. I will continue from Surabaya with a 16mm film camera. Had to hold a speech in the German Clubs inof Batavia and Bandungxx. I’ll also be holding one here in Semerang on the 28th, too. Without me organising it, people throw in together, which providinges me with some money. I received 50 guilders in Batavia and 35 Guilders in Bandung. Bit by bit I’m now managing to get along. How are you getting along? I hope you are all well and that you’ve made itgotten through the winter alright. ItThe heat here is boiling here. You really don’t have to take that about little Wilma to heart, you know. It’s just because there aren’t any girls for me out here, so memories of pleasant moments I spent with one or the other girl occasionally come back to me and then I think it would be a good idea to contact her again. Well, to be quite honest, judging by your last letter Ive noticed that you are on your way beginning to being married. I received a letter from Sonja, too. She wrote something about “minnedienstcourting”xx. I hope she will succeeds, because I think Sonja really should marry. As you can see, I have quite different opinions in regard to marriage. After Surabaya I’ll continue along the various islands up to Australia. Letter writing will then become somewhat difficult. Mail addressed to Surabaya will still be forwarded, butonly I expect it will be sent to Dili on Portuguese Timor, which would probably be the next direct mail station. I imagine this part of the journey will be very interesting. Hopefully it reallyactually will be, so that the film camera pays off. The various Papuan tribes begin immediately after Bali. They’re a totally different type of people with tufts of frizzy hair like wool. Some are still said to be cannibals, but I suppose that goes mainly for those living in the interior. I’m not afraid, because I wouldn’t be fat enough. [I] merely weigh a mere 66 kg; in Germany I weighed 70[kg]. Due to the climate and hard work it’s impossible to put on weight. But I’ll definitely put my feet upsure be relaxing once I get to Australia. I wanted to give you two2 Javanese sugar spoons as a wedding present. But the Cconsul told me you’d have to pay more customs duty on them than they would be worth. So I presented them to someone else during the Christmas party in Batavia and in return I received a silver pencil. So you’ll have to keep on waiting until I get married to [Wolle]*. So, now I’ll close for today. Please send mail to: Surabaya, Java, German Cconsulate. Kind regards to you, your husband, as well as friends and relatives, ifn case you get to see them. Please reply quickly, so that I may still receive the letter in Surabaya. Once again all the best, Your Oskar Translator’s note: German word meaning “wool” – it could also be a nickname, no further reference made.
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