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Notes written by Oskar Speck relating to his voyage

Date: 1930s
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Record
Object No: ANMS0533[008]

User Terms

    • Man from Hamburg travels to Australia in a standard issue collapsible boat. Maybe some of the readers will remember the time before the war when in the papers and on air there were short reports about the undertakings of this young person from Hamburg in the papers and on air, who was attempting to reach Australia in a folding boat. Then the war started and nothing was heard of him again since. IToday in Hamburg today we have discovered the outcome of it became known by accident what became of this undertaking purely by chance. Only a few days after the start of the war, Oskar Speck, from Altona in Hamburg, arrived in Australia, his final destination. This incredible undertaking, to get toreach Australia in a standard issue folding boat,, (he used up 5 folding boats altogether, put at his disposal by the pioneer folding boat wharf at Bad Toelz), was completed successfully. He actually used a total of 5 folding boats, all supplied by the Pioneer folding boat yard in Bad Toelz. Three Australian policemen in uniform were waiting for him at the beach. He Tthen he disappeared behind barbed wire without a trace behind barbed wire, the guest of his Majesty the King of England, for over 6 years. Speck, whose arrival inat Colombo in 1935 and in Batavia in 1936 caused a sensation, and of whomm everybody expected that he would complete the last leg of his journey successfully, had struck suffered a serious misadventure on the island of Lakor in the Maluku Islands. He was attacked by natives in the middle of the night, but managed to escape to the island of Tanimbar that same night. There he had to undergo medical treatment since as his eardrum been ruptured by a blow to thehis head had ruptured his eardrum. He contracted an infection and was sent to the hospital in Surabaya. After an operation and lengthy treatment, the Dutch officials there tried to persuade Speck to terminate his trip. But without success. Speck asked for a new folding boat to be sent to Saumlaki on the island on Tanimbar and he continued his journey a year later. Then a new difficulty appearedarose. The Dutch officials refused Speck permission for Speck to continue his journey as planned, via Western New Guinea and on to Australia. The natives were supposed reputed to be unreliable on the coast of Western New Guinea. Only with difficulty did Speck manage to getreceive permission to continue his journey via Northern New Guinea, Hollandia [Jayapura today], the former German New Guinea and then via Papua on to Australia. The political horizon continued to darken. Speck continued to approach his destination. He heard little about events in Europe. In the early morning of 5 September 1939 he arrived at Daru, the exit port of Papua. The next landing was to be Australia. An old fisherman approached Speck and said to him: ”Congratulations on your landing in Daru, – unfortunately I have bad news for you, - war has broken out!” The official who Speck was supposed to get in touch with was a real sportsman. Speck’s aim to reach Australia was widely known. A telegram was sent to Port Moresby asking permission for Speck to continue. “Continue straight away, - destination Thursday Island”, was the answer. Speck lost no time. The inhabitants of the island, simple fishermen, helped stock the boat with food, - even a bottle of rum was found on the boat later. Over night Speck had turned into the enemy. But war or no war, for these fishing people no animosity existed. They knew what it meant to venture out into the sea in such a boat. On his departure, they shook hands with Speck silently, - they knew what was waiting for him upon his arrival on Australian soil. The weather was bad, so Speck couldn’t make the crossing of the Torres Straight crossing to Australia immediately. He hid for a while in the mangrove swamps. A few days later, upon his landing on the first Australian island “Saibai”, the first Australian island, three Australian policemen were waiting for him and took him into custody as a prisoner of war. This was the end of one of the most unbelievable sea journeys ever undertaken successfully by an individual. A fter a journey of more than seven years’ duration Iin a boat capable of carrying less than a third of a ton and, carried out in all sincerityhonor as a sporting trip, (and Speck has every proof of this), after more than seven years’ journey, he arrived at his destination – where he was awaited with and there is barbed wire. Speck stayed in Australia after the war and is a successful businessman today. He works as an opal specialist in opals and has his own cutting operation. He loves Australia and has established a beautiful property on the coast. HisMy memories of Germany are not the best, he says. "The Ffirst World wWar, inflation, the period of great unemployment period, all that caused me to truly appreciate my wealth in this beautiful country."
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