On Nov 2, 2016 - Sandy Robson completed kayaking 23000kms of the historic Oskar Speck route from Germany to Australia!
The grand finale took place on Saibai Island, the northernmost island in Australia's Torres Strait. Sandy was welcomed back to Australian soil by her father Gordon, representatives of the traditional land owners, community members, school children, the school principal and the Australian Border Force team.
Who is Oskar Speck? This is one adventure story that needs to be told!
German kayaker Oskar Speck set out in a folding kayak on the Danube River in 1932. It was a period of huge economic depression in Europe, his business had gone bust and for the 25 year old, it seemed like a good time to get out and see the world. Originally he set out by folding kayak to Cyprus. He was paddling a kayak designed for river travel and sometimes balancing on the high seas and even being pushed along at times by hoisting a sail, teetering near capsize, and tying himself to his kayak with a rope when he feared the worst. He couldn't even swim! The grand adventure spurred him onward, overland deep into Syria and Iraq via rivers where he was shot at, then back on the coast in Iran and India. The route mostly following close to the coast but there were several long open-water crossings. By Sri Lanka he had set his sights on Australia. Seven years, several kayaks and many thousands of kilometres later, he landed in Australian waters. Unfortunately Speck's timing was not ideal...being at the start of WW2 and seeing as he was German, Speck was briefly congratulated and then put under house arrest, hosted by the school principal on Saibai Island, until his passage south to Internment camp could be arranged. After 7 years of freedom, travelling across the world in a small folding kayak, with only the meagre possessions inside, Speck had everything confiscated and was interned for the next 6 years of his life...almost the same amount of time that he had paddled. He thought he might go mad in internment camp and he once planned a successful escape from a camp in Victoria, only to be recaptured and moved to South Australia. He was warned that he would be shot if he tried that stunt again. It's hard to imagine Speck wanting to stay and reside in a country that had treated him this way, but once the war was over, he realised it was better to make a fresh start in Australia than to make a return to post-war Germany. Later in his life, Speck became a successful opal merchant in Sydney and a landholder in Hardy's Bay on the central coast. For the locals, a degree of mystery surrounded the foreigner living up on the hill overlooking the bay. The local kids called him "the diamond cutter" and they knew stories about his long sea adventure to reach Australia, but being German, in a post-war period, Speck was never really revered for his heroic journey and the story faded away until finally, after Speck had passed away, the Australian National Maritime Museum received a donation of Speck's documents, diaries and the remaining effects of the expedition. Finally, his feat gained some recognition as a central part of the Australian Watermark Museum Collection. Unfortunately, that collection has now been packed away, but Sandy Robson, inspired by what she says, has to be the most amazing kayak journey of all time, does hope to bring the Speck journey to life once more. From a unique perspective, having followed in 23000kms of Speck's paddle strokes, a new chapter in the amazing Speck journey begins, 'the book that Oskar Speck never got to write'. Sandy explains, it is a compilation of stories from her journey, interspersed with stories from Oskar Speck and sourced from the Speck collection in the museum, along with stories from people who had met Oskar Speck during his expedition and later when he settled and lived in Australia. Listen in on Radio National.