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Ben Carlin’s round-the-world trek in a Ford GPA. Following the successful crossing of the Atlantic, the Carlin was famous suddenly. In their journeys through European cities such as Lisbon, Paris, Hamburg and London their vehicle was often surrounded by crowds. But success had a high price. "Something is broken every day," Elinore Carlin wrote in her diary already on the 15th day of the Atlantic crossing. And two weeks later: ". No sun, a little rain, cold, dark and a hellish seas Oh Jesus, it would be wonderful if I get over this seasickness, have not eaten for 2-3 days."

Ben Carlin’s round-the-world trek in a Ford GPA. Following the successful crossing of the Atlantic, the Carlin was famous suddenly. In their journeys through European cities such as Lisbon, Paris, Hamburg and London their vehicle was often surrounded by crowds. But success had a high price. “Something is broken every day,” Elinore Carlin wrote in her diary already on the 15th day of the Atlantic crossing. And two weeks later: “. No sun, a little rain, cold, dark and a hellish seas Oh Jesus, it would be wonderful if I get over this seasickness, have not eaten for 2-3 days.

Ben Carlin’s Round-The-World Trek in a Ford GPA

In 1950, a young Australian mining engineer named Ben Carlin set out to do the impossible: circumnavigate the globe, by land and sea, in a single vehicle

Would you want to accompany even a sane person in a claustrophobic half jeep/half boat designed to ford shallow streams on an around the world journey in the early 1950s?  If this suicide mission wasn’t bad enough, you would be cooped up with Ben Carlin in a tiny cabin for parts of a decade. The carbon monoxide fumes are making the hyperactive Carlin delirious clouding his already questionable judgment. His increasing sense of paranoia is fueled by on shore binge drinking. He calls you a son-of-b… at your every slightest perceived screw-up.

Those unlucky enough to accompany Carlin describe him as part monster, part maniac, but a master mechanic and navigator. His seafaring and car/boat fixing skills saved his life on numerous occasions, but it was his prickly personality that was as memorable as his land/sea navigational skills.

In the 1950s, a man from Perth named Ben Carlin decided he wanted to circumnavigate the globe in an amphibious jeep, an optimistic-sounding land-and-water vehicle developed by the U.S. military and which Carlin first encountered while he was serving in the Indian Army. It was a mechanical mongrel that was supposed to move with equal ease across land and water but in practice wasn’t much good at either.

Ben Carlin had attended Guildford Grammar School from 1923-1929. On leaving School he pursued various careers, including studying engineering at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines before vanishing to a coal mine in China. There he wasted a perfectly good war in the Royal Indian Engineers. Close to the end of his tour of duty a battered amphibious jeep caught his eye. After 15 minutes around, over, and under this oddity, the likes of which he had never before seen, he mused, “You know, with a bit of titivation you could go around the world in one of these things.”

After demobilisation in 1946, Carlin found a surplus jeep in the United States; in 1947 he was able to buy the Ford GPW Jeep from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for $US901.

Carlin named his vehicle the Half Safe after an Arrid deodorant radio commercial at the time that used the slogan: “Don’t be half safe – use Arrid to be sure”.

The deodorant company had no connection to Carlin and did not sponsor the journey.

The adventurer just appeared to like the name.

He then spent a year remodelling the jeep, installing a new hull to carry extra fuel, building a bunk behind the seats and putting in aircraft instruments and a radio transceiver.

Carlin had met an American girl, his wartime sweetheart, a Bostonian Red Cross volunteer named Elinore, and her to marry him and they agreed to make their honeymoon a round-the-world trip in Half-Safe.

A trial run was made watched by “crowds of sceptical waterside workers.” The couple’s first attempt to complete the transatlantic crossing occurred in 1948, launching from New York Harbour. Cheered on by “100 amazed wharf labourers,” they were first washed up-river by a strong tide, but then made their way out into the Atlantic at a speed of five knots. The Carlins failed to maintain radio contact, prompting a search by the United States Coast Guard.

They floated for a week, 300 miles offshore, until a Canadian ship took them back to land.

They tried to leave Half-Safe behind, but the captain of the ship persuaded them to take it with them. Upon landing back in North America, Elinore returned to Boston and Ben took a job with a Canadian shipping firm.

On their second attempt they were nearly asphyxiated owing to a cracked exhaust pipe, and on their third venture ignition trouble sent them back to New York. Setting out again and on their way to the Azores, His plucky bride said: “I love jeep sailing – the only trouble is that I get seasick every time.”

Elinore and Ben Carlin.

Elinore and Ben Carlin.

Origin Model: Ben Carlin discovered in March 1946 in India a battered amphibious vehicle. He decided after 15 minutes to circle in such a vehicle once the world. Ford had developed from a jeep used in World War II as a model for use on land and water, also known as the GPA Sea Jeep, "Seap". But for salty sea water, the vehicle was not intended and so Carlin had to make some modifications.

Origin Model: Ben Carlin discovered in March 1946 in India a battered amphibious vehicle. He decided after 15 minutes to circle in such a vehicle once the world. Ford had developed from a jeep used in World War II as a model for use on land and water, also known as the GPA Sea Jeep, “Seap”. But for salty sea water, the vehicle was not intended and so Carlin had to make some modifications.

New from old: Ben Carlin appraised his 1952 items dismantled, beloved amphibious vehicle in a workshop in Birmingham. The floating car had to be overhauled, what the Australians eventually cost seventeen months. At the same time he started on a book about his adventure, the successful Atlantic crossing to write. It appeared in 1954 and was a great success.

New from old: Ben Carlin appraised his 1952 items dismantled, beloved amphibious vehicle in a workshop in Birmingham. The floating car had to be overhauled, what the Australians eventually cost seventeen months. At the same time he started on a book about his adventure, the successful Atlantic crossing to write. It appeared in 1954 and was a great success.

Uneven meeting: The tiny amphibious "Half Safe", with adventurer Ben Carlin and his wife Elinore aboard, met in August 1948 after its expiry for a test drive from the port of New York the legendary ocean liner "Queen Mary" to the Hudson River.

Uneven meeting: The tiny amphibious “Half Safe”, with adventurer Ben Carlin and his wife Elinore aboard, met in August 1948 after its expiry for a test drive from the port of New York the legendary ocean liner “Queen Mary” to the Hudson River.

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Inside the tiny cabin of Half Safe. Photo: ABC News.

Inside the tiny cabin of Half Safe. Photo: ABC News.

Carlin had originally tried to convince Ford to sponsor his proposed trip, but the company refused, believing the craft would not make the journey. The vehicle required a number of modifications to make it seaworthy, including the addition of a more boat-like bow, a rudder, a larger cabin, and two extra fuel tanks – one at the bow and one under the “belly” of the craft, at the stern. Inside the cabin, a bunk was installed, and the dash was modified to include aircraft instruments, as well as a two-way radio (including a 19-set transmitter and receiver). In total, the vessel’s length was extended by three feet to 18 feet (5.5 m), and the fuel capacity to 200 gallons (760 L) from the original 12 gallons (45 L). The construction of the under-belly fuel tank allowed it to be jettisoned when empty, reducing further its full weight of three tons (6,720 lb or 3,048 kg)

Despite their adventures at sea, the voyage overland was perhaps more challenging that the one over sea, mostly because of the variety of borders to cross, breakdowns of the jeep, and the need to hold shows to raise money to support the trip.

The Carlins weren’t rich, and although there was some sponsorship from a North American magazine, and the promise of more from other sources, not more than once they were down to their last dollar and had to pawn their movie camera, or sell surplus fuel to continue on.

The Half-Safe in Australia 1955

After many mishaps and nearly two years later, Half-Safe finally put out to sea from Halifax on July 19 1950, and, after a 32-day voyage, arrived on Flores, the most westerly island of the Azores. Their landing was well-received, with LIFE featuring the crossing in a multiple-page article later that year, which also featured many of the Carlins’ photographs. However, the journey had not occurred without mishap – Carlin was forced to remove the cylinder head several times in order to clean the carbon from the valves and replace the head gasket, and the couple lost radio contact halfway through the voyage, leading to fears they had been lost at sea. From Flores, the couple progressed to Horta on the island of Faial, a distance of 150 miles (240 km). They then travelled to Madeira, having obtained surplus fuel from a passing Portuguese cruiser midway through the trip. Although originally expected to head directly to Lisbon, Portugal, from Madeira, the couple instead chose to head for Morocco via the Canary Islands, coming ashore at Cap Juby in the Spanish territory of Rio de Oro on 23 February 1951.

From Cap Juby, the Carlins drove north through the coastal regions of Morocco to Europe. The hot daytime temperatures, which reportedly reached 170 °F (77 °C) within the vehicle’s cabin, necessitated that Half-Safe be driven exclusively at night. The vehicle reached Casablanca, French Morocco, on 16 March 1951, and the British territory of Gibraltar in mid April, after it was sailed across the Straits of Gibraltar. From there, the Carlins drove through a number of European countries, where they engaged in sight-seeing, before finally sailing across the English Channel and concluding the first part of their journey in Birmingham, where they arrived on 1 January 1952.

Tired, weary, and lacking in money, the Carlins decided to remain in England to rest and recuperate. Throughout the journey from Nova Scotia to the Azores, both Carlin and his wife had suffered from severe hallucinations, including one instance where he had jerked awake to find himself 60° off course. Another important objective of their time in Britain was to repair Half-Safe, which had sustained large amounts of damage during the crossing, not least from Hurricane Charlie, which battered the vessel whilst it was amongst the islands of Micronesia.

They had lost radio contact and for the next five days were in the eye and backside of Hurricane Charlie somewhere between the Azores and Madeira. Charlie would blow at 160 miles per hour and would eventually kill over 250 people in the Caribbean. For 67 sleepless hours the Carlins were hammered by 50 foot waves pushed by unmeasurable winds. Ben saw his reserve fuel tanks disappear into the night. They drifted for days until the storm abated and miraculously they were able to get an SOS read by the Portuguese Navy who had given up the Carlins for dead. They were saved when a Navy ship was dispatched. Seven months after setting off from Canada, Half-Safe made it across the Atlantic five months behind schedule.

When they struck a hurricane between the Azores and Madeira, and the superstructure looked like caving in, he got Elinore to recite the escape drill out loud in the tumult: “You shout ‘OUT’ – I get out and wait. You follow and grab the gear. I follow you – KEEP IN CONTACT!” They couldn’t inflate and board the raft in that sea, and provided that the equipment wasn’t wrenched from their grip they should be able to go on living, even though they carried no life jackets, for both were strong swimmers. He warned her: “Keep your face down and away from the spray – it hurts.”

– The Buckingham Post, 27 January 1956

The repairs to the craft were accomplished with the help of RAF Group Captain Malcolm Bunting, who had served alongside Carlin in India. To raise money for the continuation of the journey, Half-Safe was exhibited in department stores throughout Europe. During this time, Carlin also completed Half-Safe: Across the Atlantic in an Amphibious Jeep, a book chronicling the first half of their journey, which sold 32,000 copies and was translated into five languages. The book was generally well received, with a reviewer in The Montreal Gazette describing Carlin as “an adventurer of the old school – full of the explorer’s instinct, and with a dry wit that makes his stories an odd mixture of high-adventure and real understatement.”

Elinore convinced Ben to keep pushing, but it backfired. After relatively easy going through Europe, Ben’s miscalculation tackling the Middle East in summer led to cabin temperatures of 170 degrees. By the time they reached India, Ben had dengue fever and Elinore had lost 30 pounds. Her hair was falling out and she suffered from stomach infections.

Ben Carlin at the wheel of the "Half Safe". The amphibious vehicle was only 5.50 by 1.50 meters tall - according tiny was the cab. The everyday life on board describes Carlin Books De Mente later as unnerving: It was freezing cold, repeatedly monoxide had entered the cabin and have caused headaches.

Ben Carlin at the wheel of the “Half Safe”. The amphibious vehicle was only 5.50 by 1.50 meters tall –  The everyday life on board describes Carlin Books De Mente later as unnerving: It was freezing cold, repeatedly monoxide had entered the cabin and have caused headaches.

With a floating car in the desert: The "Half safe" crossing a wadi in Morocco - curiously admired by residents and armed military. Thanks to the amphibious vehicle Carlin could traverse not only oceans but also large areas of land.

With a floating car in the desert: The “Half safe” crossing a river in Morocco – curiously admired by residents and armed military. Thanks to the amphibious vehicle Carlin could traverse not only oceans but also large areas of land.

Name as a program: The amphibious vehicle is for a conversion in Bray-on-Thames, United Kingdom, tested in June 1954th The name of the peculiar Gefährts, "Half Safe" was an allusion to a deodorant advertising, whose slogan was "Do not be half-safe!"

 The amphibious vehicle is for a conversion in Bray-on-Thames, United Kingdom, tested in June 1954th The name of the peculiar Gefährts, “Half Safe” was an allusion to a deodorant advertising, whose slogan was “Do not be half-safe!”

Despite their adventures at sea, the voyage overland was perhaps more challenging that the one over sea, mostly because of the variety of borders to cross, breakdowns of the jeep, and the need to hold shows to raise money to support the trip.

The Carlins weren’t rich, and although there was some sponsorship from a North American magazine, and the promise of more from other sources, not more than once they were down to their last dollar and had to pawn their movie camera, or sell surplus fuel to continue on.

The Carlins set out again in early 1955, arriving in France on 22 April 1955. The vehicle continued through Switzerland, northern Italy, and Yugoslavia, where in May 1955, it was reported that Half-Safe had had its first flat tire, whilst travelling through Belgrade. The Carlins then continued through Greece and Turkey, sailing across the Bosphorus to Asia Minor, before progressing through Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan to Calcutta, India. Carlin later noted: “the 2000 miles across the Atlantic from Nova Scotia to the Azores were in many ways much less worrying than a similar distance covered on murderous roads in Persia”. At Calcutta, the Carlins decided to transport Half-Safe to Australia via steamer. At the start of his voyage, Carlin had said he would not travel to Australia or New Zealand, because petrol was “too dear” there. However, a lack of funding meant the side trip was necessary. The trip also allowed Carlin to meet with his family, who still lived in Perth – his brother, Tom Carlin, had become a captain in the Royal Australian Navy, and was actively involved in nuclear weapons testing on the Montebello Islands in 1952, as part of Operation Hurricane.

Before Ben could ship the GPA back to Calcutta for the resumption of the journey, Elinore decided to call it quits; susceptible to seasickness, she couldn’t take any more, so she headed back to the United States while Ben searched for another co-pilot/first mate.

Carlin’s wife Elinore couldn’t take the non-stop obscenities and invective, abandoning ship after making it across the Atlantic through Hurricane Charlie. Several others couldn’t sail/motor through it either, but to Carlin’s credit, he persevered on -alone- after the press and the world lost interest in his odyssey.

To this day’s era of extreme sports and exploration, he remains the only person to have circumnavigated the globe by land and sea in the same vehicle. It took only a decade, costing Carlin his health – and just about everything else. But his reputation as a fearless adventurer, master mechanic and never-say-die pain-in-the-ass is forever logged in the travel archives.

Carlin’s biggest mistake was losing Elinore. She was a modifying influence and also softened his bravado that appealed to the press. The rigors of the road and sea took an immediate toll on her and she didn’t have the travel tolerance Carlin always had.

“Both were in their 30s but looked as though they had aged decades in just a few weeks. Elinore, famished and vomiting anchovies into a thin mug had gone from voluptuous to skeletal. Ben looked worse. His skin was pale, a delta of stress lines spread across his forehead. His eyes were baggy and bloodshot. His face covered with exhaust soot, engine grease and sweat.”

I coil the rope we had used to lower supplies to the jeep from the high pier; Carlin waves to our send-off party. Only a few wave back. Departure: While Boyé Lafayette De Mente catches the rope in a landing maneuvers, Carlin waving spectators on the pier. The mast hardly used the adventurer - he was not particularly well suited for sailing. The two were from May to September 1957 by Japan to Alaska go and put it about 5,000 kilometers - at a snail's pace because "Half-Safe" was not faster than three and a half knots.

I coil the rope we had used to lower supplies to the jeep from the high pier; Carlin waves to our send-off party. Only a few wave back. Departure: While Boyé Lafayette De Mente catches the rope in a landing maneuvers, Carlin waving spectators on the pier. The mast hardly used the adventurer – he was not particularly well suited for sailing. The two were from May to September 1957 by Japan to Alaska go and put it about 5,000 kilometers – at a snail’s pace because “Half-Safe” was not faster than three and a half knots.

The amphibious vehicle cruises on the Atlantic, before running into a violent storm.

The amphibious vehicle cruises on the Atlantic, before running into a violent storm.

World Record: After years of conversions finally emerged from the Ford GPA this peculiar construction. Carlin started in 1950, first with his wife Elinore, here on the Champs-Elysées, the circumnavigation of the earth; off we went in Halifax, Canada. Eight years later, he had with his strange amphibious vehicle traveled nearly 80,000 kilometers, in fact, the world goes round - on land and water. However, without his wife: She separated in 1954 by her husband reisewütigen.

World Record: After years of conversions finally emerged from the Ford GPA this peculiar construction. Carlin started in 1950, first with his wife Elinore, here on the Champs-Elysées, the circumnavigation of the earth; off we went in Halifax, Canada.

Once the major voyage-ending bugs were worked out of Half-Safe’s systems — and there were a large number of them, mostly involving different methods for carrying fuel — the Carlins set off for the Azores from Halifax on July 19, 1950. Their plan was to head for Flores; they arrived there 32 days later, having travelled through a hurricane, the jeep pummelled almost to the breaking point, having suffered tremendous seasickness (especially Elinore) and, one would imagine, testing their marriage severely. From the Azores they steamed to Madeira, and then made land at Africa at Cap Juby before driving overland through Agadir, Casablanca, Gibraltar, Lison, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Denmark, Sweden, London and finally Birmingham, where they arrived on New Years Day, 1952.

Once the major voyage-ending bugs were worked out of Half-Safe’s systems — and there were a large number of them, mostly involving different methods for carrying fuel — the Carlins set off for the Azores from Halifax on July 19, 1950. Their plan was to head for Flores; they arrived there 32 days later, having travelled through a hurricane, the jeep pummelled almost to the breaking point, having suffered tremendous seasickness (especially Elinore) and, one would imagine, testing their marriage severely. From the Azores they steamed to Madeira, and then made land at Africa at Cap Juby before driving overland through Agadir, Casablanca, Gibraltar, Lison, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Denmark, Sweden, London and finally Birmingham, where they arrived on New Years Day, 1952.

Half-Safe’s Australian tour began in late October 1955 in Perth, where Carlin grew up, and included a tour of his old school, Guildford Grammar. The Carlins then went to Adelaide, and subsequently progressed to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Half-Safe was returned to Calcutta on a steamship in January 1956. However, Elinore, Carlin’s wife, left the trip in Australia, having finally tired of the long travel and the constant seasickness she was experiencing. Carlin continued his journey alone, with the first leg consisting of a sea voyage from Calcutta to Akyab, Burma, across the Bay of Bengal. At Akyab, he was joined by Barry Hanley, another Australian.

The two met on Burma’s coast in late February 1956, and from there crossed the Arakan Yoma mountain ranges to the Irrawaddy River, where the vehicle was bogged down in mud for two days. After extricating Half-Safe from the mire, the pair progressed to Rangoon, arriving on 11 March. From Burma, Half-Safe was driven overland to Bangkok, Thailand, and from there to Saigon, on the coast of Indochina. From there, Carlin and Hanley set out to sail from Indochina to Japan, passing through several ports and islands in the South China Sea. Upon his arrival in Hong Kong in early May 1956, Carlin was “mobbed by autograph-seeking girls”, having been delayed on his voyage by engine trouble and headwinds in the South China Sea.

He arrived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in early June, and from there travelled to Keelung on the northern tip of Taiwan, and Okinawa, part of the American-administered Ryukyu Islands. Carlin and Hanley drove ashore at Kagoshima Prefecture at the southern tip of Japan in July 1956, and from there drove overland to Tokyo. Hanley returned to Australia at this stage, while Carlin rested in Japan, again performing much-needed repairs.

The two adventurers Ben Carlin and Boyé Lafayette De Mente sitting in September 1957 on Adak Iceland, Alaska, on a pier, waiting for an entry permit to a US Navy base. Photo: Boye De Mente

The two adventurers Ben Carlin and Boyé Lafayette De Mente sitting in September 1957 on Adak Iceland, Alaska, on a pier, waiting for an entry permit to a US Navy base. Photo: Boye De Mente

"Half Safe" is left in the Japanese port city of Wakkanai on Hokkaido Island in May 1957 water. De Mente, left, and a helper sitting on the sea wall and keep the amphibious vehicle at a distance in order to protect it from damage. Photo: Boye De Mente

“Half Safe” is left in the Japanese port city of Wakkanai on Hokkaido Island in May 1957 water. De Mente, left, and a helper sitting on the sea wall and keep the amphibious vehicle at a distance in order to protect it from damage. Photo: Boye De Mente

Carlin (standing) and De Mente on Half-Safe in front of the Mainichi Newspaper Building in downtown Tokyo, May 3, 1957. Photo: Boye De Mente Ben Carlin, links, und sein Mitfahrer Boyé Lafayette De Mente auf ihrem Amphibienfahrzeug "Half-Safe", aufgenommen am 3. Mai 1957 vor dem Gebäude der Zeitung "Mainichi" in der Innenstadt Tokios.

Carlin (standing) and De Mente on Half-Safe in front of the Mainichi Newspaper Building in downtown Tokyo, May 3, 1957. Photo: Boye De Mente

Boyé Lafayette De Mente, left, and Ben Carlin in noodle food on the outskirts of Tokyo. The picture was taken shortly before their departure with "Half safe" from Japan to Alaska in May 1957. De Mente regretted soon to have Ben Carlin connected. The two men had nothing to say, either were silent or they shouted in itself; in gangways they went out of the way. "Between us there was at no time a sense of friendship and camaraderie," De Mente says today. Although the ambitious Carlin was a "fantastic navigator and mechanic" was but human "an uncultured, loudmouthed daredevil".

Boyé Lafayette De Mente, left, and Ben Carlin in noodle food on the outskirts of Tokyo. The picture was taken shortly before their departure with “Half safe” from Japan to Alaska in May 1957. De Mente regretted soon to have Ben Carlin connected. The two men had nothing to say, either were silent or they shouted in itself; in gangways they went out of the way. “Between us there was at no time a sense of friendship and camaraderie,” De Mente says today. Although the ambitious Carlin was a “fantastic navigator and mechanic” was but human “an uncultured, loudmouthed daredevil”.

An American journalist for The Japan Times, Boyé Lafayette de Mente offered to accompany Carlin on the journey from Japan to Alaska, departing in early 1957 for the first stage of the trip from Tokyo to Wakkanai, Hokkaidō.

“I had learned in advance he was a foul mouthed, inconsiderate SOB whose behaviour toward people was often outrageous and that the only time he was polite, kind and considerate toward people was when he needed something from them,” wrote Boye De Mente who accompanied Carlin across the Pacific in the mid-1950s and authored, “Once a Fool! From Japan to Alaska by Amphibious Jeep.” DeMente  authored over 100 books but none had a more compelling or combative main character than Carlin.

Boyé Lafayette De Mente is an American author, journalist, and adventurer :  de Mente arrived in Japan in 1949 with the occupation forces, and later worked for The Japan Times in Tokyo in the late 1950s.He also acted as an extra in a number of Japanese films in the early 1950s. In 1957, he accompanied the Australian adventurer Ben Carlin on the Tokyo–Anchorage leg of his circumnavigation of the world, together with Carlin becoming the first to cross the Pacific Ocean via an amphibious vehicle.

The pair left Tokyo on 1 May 1957 to great fanfare, cheered off from the Mainichi and Yomiuri Newspaper buildings. The craft sprung a leak while crossing the Tsugaru Strait, separating the southern island of Honshu from Hokkaidō, and collided with submerged rocks near the port of Muroran. They finally reached Wakkanai on 12 June 1957, despite what de Mente later described as Carlin’s aggression and “irascible character” during the trip.

Half-Safe at sea. Photo: Guildford Grammar School Archives

Half-Safe at sea. Photo: Guildford Grammar School Archives

The Half Safe on London's Waterloo Bridge, April 1955. Photo: Guildford Grammar School

The Half Safe on London’s Waterloo Bridge, April 1955. Photo: Guildford Grammar School

Carlin’s aim was to travel directly from Wakkanai to Shemya, a small island in the Near Islands group of the Semichi Islands chain, part of the Aleutian Islands running southwest of the Alaskan mainland. The craft was carrying enough fuel to last for approximately 21 days, but did not make contact within this time, causing the US Coast Guard’s search and rescue station to be notified.

Half-Safe finally landed on Shemya on 8 July, with the pair having made an unexpected detour to visit the town of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, at the time part of the Russian SFSR. From Shemya, Carlin and de Mente sailed to Adak Island, a distance of 350 miles (560 km), then a further 580 miles (930 km) to Cold Bay, and thence along the Aleutian island chain to the mainland town of Homer, arriving in late August.

Carlin and de Mente then drove Half-Safe overland to Anchorage, where de Mente flew home to Phoenix. Carlin subsequently drove solo to Seattle, Washington, arriving in early November 1957. Whilst travelling the Alaska Highway in British Columbia, he encountered the collapsed Peace River Suspension Bridge. While other motorists queued for a nearby ferry, Carlin simply drove Half-Safe into the river and across to the other side. Continuing on to San Francisco, California, where he met his wife for the first time in two years, Carlin then continued onwards through the United States and north to Canada. He arrived in Toronto, Ontario, on 10 May 1958, and three days later arrived in Montreal, where he finally completed his ten-year journey. He and Half-Safe had travelled 17,780 kilometres (11,050 mi) by sea and 62,744 kilometres (38,987 mi) by land over ten years, passing through 38 countries and over two oceans, with the entire trip costing him around $35,000

One newspaper wrote at the time, Carlin hadn’t developed one lick of affection for Half-Safe over that decade. “I can’t get rid of her fast enough,” he said. “It’s been a tortoise shell on my back for many years.”

Except he didn’t get rid of Half-Safe. He spent the next few years travelling the United States with Elinore, giving presentations on their journey, and then lived out his later years in Australia in relative obscurity, working at a yacht harbour and retaining a one-half share in Half-Safe, which remained in the United States in the care of Carlin’s friend George Calimer. When Carlin died of a heart attack in 1981 (Elinore apparently died in 1996 in New York), he left his share to Guildford Grammar School in Perth, Western Australia, which he attended as a schoolboy in the 1920s.

The Guildford Grammar School Foundation subsequently purchased the other share in the vehicle, transferring it to the school’s campus in Guildford, Western Australia. The school also posthumously published The Other Half of Half-Safe, which detailed the second portion of Carlin’s journey. In 1999, the craft was transported by truck across Australia to Corowa, New South Wales, where it featured in an annual celebration on the Murray River, along with 16 other amphibious vehicles from the Second World War.

Half-Safe is currently exhibited in a specially-made glass enclosure at Guildford Grammar’s main campus.

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  • Tom

    Brings back some memories. My father commanded the last company of these in the UK. They were used expensively in the Norfolk floods in the uk in the early 50s. I drove one aged 9 and My Father did the trials on them in the UK back in 1940.
    Thanks for posting this!

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