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Memories of George Dibbern - Vagabond, Philosopher, Sailor

in In the South: Tales of Sail and Yearning
10 Jun 2013  |  0 Comments

A recent series of three Sunday program segments on ABC Radio in Tasmania culminated in a listener talkback session about yet another remarkable sea-faring character referred to in a chapter of In the South: Tales of Sail and Yearning.

Presenter Chris Wisbey initially attracted a lively audience response when interviewing veteran Tasmanian yachtsman, Don Calvert, in part about his time as a teenage sail trainee with Elliott aka 'Skipper' aka 'Spuddo' Giles, aboard his heavy gaff-rigged ketch, Utiekah III. Chris had read the chapter about Spuddo in my book.

As things do, one thing led to another and one conversation to the next. The third and final program dealt with the self-described vagabond and citizen of the world, George Dibbern. In the 1920s, Dibbern sailed away from a troubled Germany towards Australia and New Zealand, aboard his 32-foot ketch Te Rapunga. He led an adventurous, unconventional life, even a mildly scandalous one by the standards of the day. In later life, as a result of a lottery win, he purchased two islands in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel in southern Tasmania. It was his ownership of one such island, Partridge, which provided the link to people and stories in my book.

Listening via the Internet from Cortes Island in Canada was Dibbern's biographer Erika Grundmann. She wrote a well-researched and fascinating book about Dibbern entitled Dark Sun (the translation of his boat's name, Te Rapunga). Anyone interested in the book can find it at: http://georgedibbern.com/darksun.html. More recently Erika re-published Dibbern's own well-written book, Quest, in which he told the story of his journey and philosophy (http://georgedibbern.com/Quest/NE-Details.html). Erika's web site contains much more information including periodic newsletters.

From around Tasmania, people called in to ABC Radio: the son of a man who crewed for Dibbern on the voyage from Germany more than eight decades ago; people who had befriended him or were related to someone who had sailed aboard Te Rapunga during subsequent voyages.

It is a fascinating exercise. Books such as In the South and Dark Sun are not likely to ever appear on the lists of best-seller blockbusters. But each in its way seems to find its way to a community of readers for whom the stories have meaning and value. For me - and for Erika Grundmann, no doubt - this provides a sense of quiet satisfaction.

 
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