Kayak paddle used by Oskar Speck


Australian National Maritime Museum

Australian National Maritime Museum

Oskar Speck presented this two-piece double-ended kayak paddle to the fledgling Cruising Canoe Club as a perpetual trophy to mark the Commonwealth Jubilee celebrations and was awarded to the winner of the 100 mile marathon race, an annual event. Carl Toovey was presented with the trophy paddle as the winner of the marathon in 1951 and 1952. It was awarded to Carl Toovey for winning the Cruising Canoe Club Commonwealth Jubilee 100 mile Canoe Marathon in 1951 and 1952. When 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 16 millimetre 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.

Speck was travelling on a German passport and 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). He was detained at the Tatura internment camp in Victoria, and after escaping and being recaptured 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.

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  • Title: Kayak paddle used by Oskar Speck
  • Date: 1939
  • Type: Paddle
  • See institution's online collections: http://www.anmm.gov.au/collections
  • Medium: Wood, metal
  • Dimensions: 80 x 2280 x 80 mm, 1.5 kg
  • Credit line: ANMM Collection Gift from Carl Toovey