No. 10 — October 2009

George Dibbern: His Life and Quest

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

Summer’s over—and what a summer it’s been! Consistently sunny and hot—but along with that came wildfires in the interior and water shortages on our island. With cooler, damper days, though still not enough rain, I’m back at the computer and ready to devote more time to the list of things to do.
Geocities are withdrawing from web hosting, so I’ve had to change domain name to the now owned-by-me which will remain constant whatever hosting service I choose in future. For now, the old will be automatically redirected to the new site.


Earlier this summer I was placing copies of Quest and Dark Sun in the gift shop at the Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra Island. A woman approached me and said she’d been following George Dibbern’s story with interest. I was surprised and excited to learn that she is the cousin of Jane Caddy of the Caddy family from Vancouver Island who joined George, Eileen and Lani on Woody Island in Tasmania (pages 389, 391, 397-99, 407 in Dark Sun). I had tried so hard, unsuccessfully, to locate someone from the Caddy family—and here, on my doorstep was someone who could help! Through Kate Tourney I was able to connect with Jane who wrote (such a luxury to receive six hand-written pages) describing her time on Woody Island. Included was the following anecdote:
George had a number of steers and a bull on Partridge Island which he also owned. Peter (Jane’s father) and George decided they needed the bull on Woody Island. Somehow they managed to get the bull aboard Te Rapunga—try to imagine that!—and tied him to the mast. Unfortunately during the voyage back to Woody Island, the bull fell overboard and had to be towed the rest of the way. When they landed the bull on the beach, he was “nearly dead” and “had to be covered up to keep warm and nursed for several days before he recovered.” It had turned out to be quite an expedition!

I recently was contacted by German maritime historian and writer Michael Buschow, currently living in Lübeck aboard his 100+ year old sailing ship SS Stine. He and his wife are organizing 10,000 pieces of archival material (which they rescued from a basement and now own!) pertaining to Count Felix von Luckner. While sorting through the papers, they found a letter written by George Dibbern (Auckland, 28th Aug. 1935) to Louis Brady who was Captain of the SS Forde, the Dover-Calais ferry, in the 1930s. Though Dibbern and von Luckner were interned in NZ during WWI and returned to Europe aboard the same ship, SS Willochra, the mystery that remains to be solved is how and why the letter made its way to Count von Luckner. Mr. Buschow is planning on writing a book about the archival treasure that Count von Luckner left.

Existing books about the “Sea Devil” as von Luckner was known:
Count Luckner: The Sea Devil by Lowell Thomas, 1927. My copy was published in New York by Doubleday, Doran & Company Inc., in 1928.
Sea Devil: Count von Luckner in NZ and Pacific by James Bade (Wellington, NZ: Steele Roberts, [2004]


Each time I do a thorough search on the internet, I find new material posted. Check out:

Newspaper article “World Well Lost” (Kentucky New Era, 24 January 1940) with photo of Eileen and George pouring over navigation charts, George, who hated Albrecht’s smelly pipe and was a non-smoker, shown with a pipe!

An article about Dibbern, Lone Rover of the Pacific: Little Ship’s Flag of Freedom and Friendship,” in Children’s Newspaper (published in Britain) 1949

A letter by Dibbern to yacht designer Henry Uhle, Sparkman & Stephens, Inc., dated 26 June 1946, with some quotations from the letter. [Scroll down to item #16]

The good news: Thanks to the efforts of Nancy Wise of Sandhill Book Marketing (Canadian distributor for Quest), BC Ferries will be stocking the new edition of Quest in their gift stores on board the large ferries.

For the record: if you see the following posting on line, it is meaningless , i.e. one of the failed attempts with a publisher—there is no such book.
Quest / George Dibbern. – 1st Salal Press ed. – Sooke, BC : Salal Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-894012-03-4 (bound) : $27.95 1. Dibbern, George, 1889-1962-Travel ……

A reminder: the new edition of Quest is available through book stores in Canada as well as through my web site. For purchase from other countries, visit the Purchase page on my web site. Payment is via PayPal or if you don’t have a PayPal account, via credit card (no login nor password required) through PayPal. Prices are quoted in Canadian dollars and the conversion is effected automatically in the transaction. Just click on the “Buy Now” button of the category you require, and follow (simple!) instructions.


Rüdiger von Fritsch, the godson of Doe von Fritsch Leber in Quest, who generously contributed photos and newspaper articles for the new edition of Quest, has himself written a just-published, enthralling account of how he helped a cousin and two friends escape from East Germany in 1974: Die Sache mit Tom (Berlin: wjs Verlag 2009). For anyone who reads German, it’s a superb read. Otherwise, I imagine/hope it will be translated into English before too long.

I always welcome new findings, feedback and commentsor simply a friendly “hello”!
Erika G.

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