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Notes written by Oskar Speck relating to his journey

Date: 1930s
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Report
Object No: ANMS0533[006]

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    • THE CROSSES OF CYPRUS At last I can continue my journey to Cyprus. I am quite sick of the harassment by the police commissioner at Anamur. Only today they checked all my gear again. This must be about the 10th time and anyway, I will probably not be given back my films, which they took from me three weeks ago. It is, therefore, best if I leave Turkey and this unfriendly place Anamur now. My folding boat is still not really fit to withstand the crossing of the channel that lies between Turkey and Cyprus, a distance of 50 nautical miles. However, there are no materials for repairs to be found here in Anamur to fix the boat up perfectly. I set out at 11 in the evening and the sky is clear and full of stars, in the distance the blinking light from the lighthouse at Cape Anamur. According to my nautical map I should be able to see this light for a distance of 15 miles and by then it should be morning and I hope that it will allow me to see the coast of Cyprus by then. After about two hours the lights from a cruise ship coming from the Gulf of Adalia appear at my right, approaching me at a frightening speed. I have no light on board and since there is virtually no wind I decide to light a sheet of paper if they come too close. I'm looking all around the boat for matches, but as always in such cases, it's impossible to find what I am looking for. The cruise ship has already come very close and I since it appears to be heading in my exact direction, I give up searching for the matches which I won't find anyway in my state of excitement. The only thing I can do now is to wait until the ship has approached to the point where I can make out if it'll be better to avoid it by moving forwards or backwards. I can already hear the noise of the engines and then this massive black wall pushes through the water a mere 50 meters behind me. Nobody on the brightly lit cruiser will have any idea that just at that moment deep down below them a person in a boat not even 80 cm wide is breathing a huge sigh of relief. Now that the danger has passed, the matches reappear and I light one in order to have a look at the compass. Towards morning, a light wind springs up, tempting me to set sail. Sailing and paddling at the same time I speed along through the slightly ruffled, deep blue waves. Unfortunately it doesn't last and an hour after sunset the wind dies down again. A long way away in the distance I can see the coast of Cyprus and I notice that I have drifted a lot further off course in the strong current than I had calculated. This will make my passage longer and I will have to add about 10-15 miles to my journey. 2 hours after sunrise it is already frightfully hot and I put the paddles down at shorter and shorter intervals. The whole day passes like that and when the sun is setting I am still about 10 miles away from Cyprus. A little wind has sprung up and I approach the coast at a pretty pace. There is a beautiful sunset that evening and while I can hardly see enough of the beautiful colours in the sky, a vision suddenly appears to me which I find strangely unsettling. There is a spot on the western horizon where the colour changes from purple to orange and where I see the distinct shapes of two crosses. A large one, glowing brightly, and a short distance away and parallel to it, a small, dark one. Of course they must be stars, but appearing to my naked eye clearly as crosses. I search the whole sky to see if any other stars have appeared, but nothing, only those two strangely glowing crosses in the sky. The wind has increased and threatens to turn into a storm. The ocean is covered in white foamy crests and the first waves wash over the boat. In view of the two crosses the strangest thoughts come to me: Are they meant for me? Does it mean the end? The large one for me, the small one for my barely three-week-old dog, who snuggles up closer to me as water enters the boat. I am travelling quite fast and approaching the coast quickly, but it will be at least an hour before I'll be on shore. The sea gets increasingly wild and I have to take the paddle in hand in order to keep my balance with the waves crashing in. The orange colour of the sunset fades slowly and darkness sets in. The stars have started to appear in the sky now and my two crosses, shining so brightly only a short while ago, seem to fade slowly. I also see a few small lights appear on the coast, there is probably a village over there. Only an hour ago I was dead tired and about to fall asleep at any moment, but now I feel totally awake. I am fighting desperately against the wind and the water flooding over me constantly. I am obsessed by the one thought: over there, where the lights keep getting larger, there is land, sleep, dryness. I can already see the outline of the coast in the darkness, it can't take more than half an hour. My good waterproof blanket, which was stolen from me in Turkey, didn't let any water in even when the waves crashed over me. But the spare blanket which I've got on now isn't waterproof and I notice the water level in the boat rising. I have to keep thinking of the two crosses and I fight my way ahead with furious determination. Finally, I hear the crashing of the waves on shore above the noise of the wind and at this point the trick is to approach the shore carefully. But a huge disappointment is in store for me: instead of the sandy shore I had hoped for, there is nothing but cliffs with rock ledges, some reaching far out into the water. I've been sitting in my small boat for twenty-three hours, dead tired and exhausted, with everything soaked through, close to shore, and yet no possibility of landing. I estimate that I am about 4 - 5 miles away from Cape Cormacity and if I can't find a place to land I'll have to go all the way around the Cape today. But the storm doesn't allow for lengthy periods of thought. Little Mehmed, the name I gave my young dog, yowls and whimpers. He is definitely not feeling well at all inside the boat, since there is no dry spot left anywhere in here, even for him. Now that I am slowly approaching the Cape, the wind is blowing at me from the front and the difficult manoeuvre of taking down the sail puts me in extreme danger of capsizing. But I am lucky; all that happens is that a large gush of water enters the boat while the blanket is open for a moment. While I spend a moment closing the blanket again, the wind is turning the boat backwards a little and suddenly I see a huge cross in front of me, embedded in the rock and brightly lit, and a short distance away a smaller, darker one. The whole thing seems most uncanny; the noise of the waves crashing, the whistling of the wind and yet this quiet, almost unnaturally brightly shining cross. Apparently it is only the lights from a house, which must be built very close to the shore on a rock. I am at the point of moving on, since despite my best efforts I can't seem to be able to locate a place to land. Then I suddenly realise that those two crosses still bear a close resemblance to my two crosses in the sky, even though they are different in their effect. And now, while I'm hesitating, the small cross wanders to the right one moment and then to the left. I am not superstitious, but this quietly shining cross with a small cross slipping from side to side, in this context, appears to me like a mute but insistent warning. The wind pushes me strongly backwards and I decide to steer towards the light, come what may. I've hardly covered 500m when a rocky ledge appears in front of me only a few meters away. The waves roll over it, crashing, and sometimes covering half of it. But what is this? There appears to be an entrance behind the ledge. I continue on carefully and a few meters on I find myself in the quietest of waters. I can hear the familiar low sound of small waves crashing on a sandy beach. The paddle hits the bottom and a few meters on and after 24 hours I can finally step out of my little boat. I am unable to bring the boat to shore since it is half filled with water, so I quickly take everything out and then I empty it using a cooking pot. After I've taken the boat to shore, I quickly feed some of the bread soaked with salt water to the dog and then I lie down to sleep on the soft sand. The next morning the brightness of the sun, which is already high up in the sky, wakes me and I can inspect my landing place more closely. It is a tiny, sandy bay and outside it nothing but sharp rocks running all the way up to the cape. I estimate the distance to the cape at about 5 miles. The house I presumed to be here yesterday is nowhere to be seen, only the village in the distance, the lights of which I had first steered towards. I rest here the whole day, since all my things have to dry. Around 10pm I set off again in order to arrive at Lewka the next morning to have my passport stamped. As I depart a little wind springs up and suddenly, as I am nearing the cape, the wind gets stronger. The same weather as the night before. As I arrive at the cape, the wind has turned into a gale again. Huge waves roll up to me and those coming straight at me often cover me right up to my shoulders with cool, prickly salt water. I have experienced many dangerous situations during my ocean travels in the folding boat, but I have to admit that this one, since it is night time, will be the worst for me. There is no turning back since even an attempt to turn the boat around would probably cause me to capsize. I've reached the first tip of the cape and work my way ahead, partly up to my elbows in water, advancing only very slowly. A good folding boat, handled properly, can withstand a lot more that any layperson or river paddler would credit. But worse is in store for me today. Just as I round the tip of the cape I realise with consternation that the boat will not react to the rudder anymore. The rope attached to the rudder has snapped. Now it's getting really dangerous. The wind, now that I've rounded the cape, comes from the side and the rudderless boat is drifting towards the sharp rocks. I put all my strength into turning the boat against the wind, again and again. There is no question of making any headway at this point; just staying away from the rocks and pointing the prow of the boat into the white capped waves, which put the boat under water each time. This fight is extremely demanding and quite often I think of giving up. To simply drop the paddle and within a few minutes it will be all be over. But every time my will to survive is stronger, and boundless fury surges up inside me and I could never repeat all the things I am screaming at the storm. But the wind doesn't care about my impotent fury. It keeps throwing bitter salt water into my face and I stop screaming after swallowing a fair amount of it. The boat is already half filled with water again and this is the only reason I haven't capsized. Now I have another frightening thought. What if the paddle breaks with all this effort? I would be thrown against the rocks within an instant and any hope of rescue would be gone. The night appears endless, but eventually dawn arrives slowly and as the sun rises the wind drops. I can enter a huge bay now but even though there is beautiful sand, I prefer to sleep in the boat. The surf is still big, the only remaining indication of the storm during the night before. But I can put the paddle down in order to scoop the water out and I can even repair the rudder from inside the boat. And now that I have time to reflect on the horrors of the night before I suddenly come to the realization: What would have happened if I hadn't followed the crosses and thus discovered the hidden little bay? I doubt if I would have managed to pass Cape Cormacity, since the weather was the same the following night, and yet I was already so exhausted from my long journey and the boat already half filled with water as well. I think about this divine intervention for a moment, but then I grab my paddle and around 10am that day I reach the little village of Lewka. The next morning on my departure the paddle breaks right in front of the crowd of people seeing me off. But now it's not a problem; in a few seconds I've got a hold of the spare paddle, stored in the tip of the boat, and can continue my journey to Larnaca.
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