No. 1 — May 2006

George Dibbern: His Life and Quest

Adventurer ~ Sailor-Philosoper ~ Free Thinker ~ Self-declared Citizen of the World

For those of you who haven’t heard about the completion of the biography, Dark Sun: Te Rapunga and the Quest of George Dibbern was published in Auckland by David Ling Publishing Ltd. (ISBN 0-908990-93-6) in 2004. A summary of the book tour in NZ (June-July 2004), reviews, readers’ comments, purchasing information, what’s new, about Erika Grundmann and other related links of interest appear on my George Dibbern website.

I recently received word from Dark Sun publisher, David Ling Publishing Ltd. that the NZ Book Publishers’ Association in conjunction with the government trade and export department is producing an illustrated rights catalogue of about 100 NZ books. Ten thousand copies will be printed and they’ll go to publishers, agents, etc. worldwide and be will distributed at Frankfurt and London Book Fairs. David entered Dark Sun, and it’s been chosen for inclusion.

In order to continue promoting Dark Sun, I’ve been writing articles and submitting them to a variety of magazines. Whenever possible, I post published articles on the website as well. My “After the Book: New Tales and Treasures” article featuring the amazing people and artifacts, “George ghosts” I call them, that have surfaced—in fact found me—since publication of Dark Sun is scheduled for the August issue of New Zealand Memories. This will be just in time for Father’s Day which in NZ happens on 3 September this year.

Periodically I google the name George Dibbern and since the time I submitted the article to Memories, I’ve made even more discoveries pertaining to him:

At University of Indiana in the Bloom.MSS collection there is a copy of Frédéric-Jacques Temple’s publication titled Two Cities (15 décembre 1959) of which Anaïs Nin was an editor, and in which Dibbern’s “soulmate” and friend, author Cilette Ofaire wrote about George who mentioned the article in a letter to Henry Miller. On his death, Ofaire apparently reworked the article into an obituary. In the same collection of 169 pieces there is correspondence referring to Dibbern’s letters to American prisoner Roger Bloom and his attempt, along with that of Nin and Miller, to get Bloom out of prison on parole. In one letter Nin writes specifically about Dibbern’s death. Unfortunately, due to the volume of material, staff don’t have time (understandably) to go through it all and I would have to visit the library in person to look for pertinent letters. So if anyone is ever out that way and has a few minutes to spare …

An excerpt from Dibbern’s book Quest, given the title “How Rugged Can You Get?”, was included in White Sails Shaking: An Anthology of Excerpts from Accounts of Cruises Made in Sailing Yachts edited by Ira Henry Freeman (New York: Macmillan, 1948)—along with pieces by Jack London, Joshua Slocum and Alain Gerbault. I’d say George is in good company!

The film referred to by Robert Messenger in his Canberra Times article of 27 December 2005 has arrived from the New Zealand Film Archive: ten minutes of film footage of the 1957 stranding of Te Rapunga near Greymouth: shaky, blurry, lint-covered and no real close-ups, but a pretty exciting view of Te Rapunga dismasted, bobbing and almost disappearing in the troughs, the stranding, the boat lying on the beach with people climbing all over and looking inside (she seems so small!), her being towed off the beach around to Greymouth, then her sailing away to Wellington. To see Dibbern run his hands through his thick (really thick even at age 68) white hair was worth the persistence and price to get the film!

Lee Domann, a modern day troubadour in Nashville, Tennessee has included George Dibbern as one of his “Highway Heroes,” defined as a person who made a significant impact on his life, on his website.

German Artist Thomas Weisenberger tells of his meeting with Johannes and Dorothée Schaeuble who sailed across the Atlantic in their 21 foot Liberty Golden Wind and of being made aware of Dibbern by Jo, a longtime admirer of George. See pages 3-6

From the diary (another “George ghost” sent to me by Gillian Bailey of Lower Hutt, NZ) kept by Roy Murdock who sailed aboard Te Rapunga from Auckland in August 1935 till she arrived in Victoria, BC, then moved on to Vancouver at the end of July 1937:

Honolulu, Wednesday, October 16, 1936 [at a school performance to which the crew of Te Rapunga were invited] More community singing followed, just as pleasing as the other songs, and then the native teachers and a few of the senior boys gave an exhibition of gymnastics on the trapeze and parallel bars. They were very good, but George beat them all. When they had finished their item he jumped up and gave a display of gymnastics that amazed us all—another side of him that I hadn’t seen before. The teachers and the children were delighted, and there was a thunder of clapping and cheering; they wanted him to go on for hours.

With summer approaching—and that means tourists and boaters coming up this way—I’m gearing up to sell Dark Sun at local markets. I quite enjoy talking to people who’ve never heard of George before, and meeting the folks who buy the book. I’m also trying to line up a few events (Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Campbell River Library, Ocean Pacific Marine Supply Ltd. in Campbell River) for fall when sailing season—for most reasonable folks in these parts—comes to an end.

Between gardening, swimming in the lake or the ocean and enjoying summer visitors, I’ll keep you posted.

Have a great spring and summer, or fall and winter if you live in the “upsidedown” part of the world!

Erika G.

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