Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Oskar Speck - The last true great adventurer?

A couple of friends of mine are canoeing from Wales to Ireland in the summer which reminded me of the incredible journey of Oskar Speck who paddled in a folding kayak from Germany to Australia by himself with no support in 1932. He left Germany to head for Egypt to find work but later changed his mind on the way and decided to go see the world. He travelled 50,000 kilometers and after 7 years and 4 months in 1939 he finaly arrived on an Australian Island where he was instantly arrested as a suspected enemy foreigner but his story didn't end there.

His equipment consisted of a compass, two small sails and a paddle. He apparently headed for Australia goaded by comments that he hadn't tackled a 'real' ocean crossing.

They all clung to me like leeches. Strong hands clutched my hair. With the strength of despair I tore one hand free from them and strove to pull the hands from my throat. My clothing — I wore only a sarong in those tropic nights—was torn off in the struggle. With strips of dried buffalo hide some of them tied my legs and hands, while others looted the kayak. By the hair, they dragged my trussed body some yards across the sand. They constantly kicked me. They picked me up, carried me a short distance, then dropped me a few yards from the water. To understand the terror of my position, naked and bound as I was, you must understand the ecstatic frenzy of those natives. They were used to the white man as master. Here was a white man in their power—and they were drunk with that power. Sometimes a gibbering, ecstatic native would hold his gleaming machete only a few millimetres from my throat. It was clear what he wanted to do.

You can read his full amazing story in his own words HERE. Part2 Part3


I believe there is one or two documentaries made about him but i think they were Australian and now sit in some archive down under. I'm very surprised that there has been nothing done by the BBC on him.

What an incredible man! What an incredible journey! What an incredible story! A real "Boy's Own" which deserves to be told and retold a thousand times - which is exactly what I hope to achieve by telling you about it.

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