No. 11 — February 2010

George Dibbern: His Life and Quest

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

Since I started this in January I guess it’s still OK to wish everyone all the best for 2010—the year of the winter Olympics in Vancouver… except there’s no winter on the BC coast this year! Some venues are being prepared, frantically, with a straw base, man-made, stockpiled snow pushed down the mountain then up again, as well as snow helicoptered and trucked in from Manning Park. But oh no, no one is panicking and all is well!



Last July Lenora Nysse in New Zealand wrote to say she had a booklet “A Sail on the Horizon!” by George Dibbern. It explains his love and respect for the sea, his departure aboard Te Rapunga from Germany in 1930, and describes the voyage as far as San Francisco. It was in essence a very brief summary of what would be the first half of his book Quest.

The booklet was given by George to Lenore’s mother, Olive, a young hairdresser whose family received into their home (and fed!) George and Günter in ~1934 in Samoa.

I knew he had produced a booklet in German while he was in the Mediterranean, but the existence of an English version came as a surprise to me. This one was produced while Te Rapunga was in San Francisco.

Back and front “cover” Actual Size = 9 cm. x 15.5 cm. [~3½ in. x ~6 in. when folded]

EXCERPTS from “A Sail on the Horizon!”

“Te Rapunga” is Polynesian from the South Seas and means “longing.” I gave my boat this name because there is no aim, no achievement without this divine spark at the beginning, and pray, where is there anything that personifies our longing more than a ship, a ship with white or brown sails against a distant sky foaming through the blue sea?
Then in however great a hurry we may be, we hesitate, stop our work, lay aside our paper, drop our conversation and our soul flies out to the object of our dreams to go with it, away from the eternal humdrum of daily life, to distant unknown lands, to meet adventure, the unknown, to seek the Spirit of God who moves upon the face of the waters.
In these moments our soul soars up high, our eyes drink until the view has disappeared and the cold gray reality encircles us once more. But now it has lost most of its dread, for the sail on the horizon like a message from afar tells us that there is a freedom to strive for.

What the Sea Told Us.
1. That the world was created in the mystery of night, the veil of which we are not able to lift. But we do know it was created out of longing, beauty, love and uprightness.
2. That life has a past, a present and a future. The past we cannot alter, our thoughts and deeds of today will be our life of tomorrow. Therefore, it is only right to live he present cheerfully and constructively. Life is beautiful. Our fate is given into our hands.
3. Life is eternal and only not striving is death.
4. We can learn only by trying, and all deeds, good and bad, that come back to us under the law of echo will teach us the course to take.
5. We are an individual, born out of the longing, beauty, love and uprightness of two, and grown up under the protection of a community. Only in our individuality are we of value but our individual work belongs to the community and the world.
There can be no other ultimate religion but the one to love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves. The spirit of God moves on the face of the waters.


John Ansett from Melbourne, AU (see pages 421 and 469 in Dark Sun), found me through my web site. A surprise e-mail arrived in which he informed me of his collection of ~70 letters from George—and a couple from Henry Miller! In 1959 John had written to Miller inquiring how he could obtain copies of his banned books. Miller suggested John try his publisher in Sweden. He also suggested he contact George Dibbern—I guess he figured they were close to being neighbours! John did write; he and Cynthia, his wife at the time, became friends and correspondents till George died in 1962. John has generously sent me the collection. They will be added to the still growing “George Dibbern Collection” which will one day be housed in an archive agreed upon with Lani Morris and Dr. Frauke Dibbern Ploog.


On 21 November I gave a presentation about George Dibbern, Quest and Dark Sun at Stillwater Books and Art in Campbell River. Emphasis was on the connection to people and events during his time in British Columbia (1937-38). For several weeks before the event, owners Ruth and Trevor McMonagle generously displayed a sampling of pertinent books and memorabilia, from my collection, in the store.


Though I have long resisted Facebook, I have finally succumbed in the hope of more easily sharing new findings about George Dibbern and getting the word out about this unusual man to more people. I’ve created a “common interest” George Dibbern Group on Facebook, so anyone interested can keep up with the news and participate in discussion. I invite you to join. If you are already on Facebook or if you do choose to join, you can find me listed as Erika Grundmann (Erika Wald).

This is a new experience for me and I hope not to flounder too much. I realize there is considerable reluctance on the part of many to join Facebook—and I respect that. To those of you who choose not to sign up, I ask, if you are interested, that you check my George Dibbern web site from time to time. There just isn’t time to cover all bases, and it’s challenge to maintain an up-to-date e-mail list. This is a foreshadowing of the possible demise of the newsletter!

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

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