Little Bits of History

May 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 13, 2017

1958: Ben Carlin arrives in Montreal. Frederick Benjamin Carlin was born in Australia in 1912. His mother died when he was four. He eventually became an engineer, like his father. He enlisted in the Indian Army during World War II as he had been living in China at the time. He worked in the Army Corps of Engineers. At the end of the war, he met a Red Cross nurse from America. Back in Maryland they were married in 1948. During the War, there were many amphibious vehicles used and one of the was Ford GPA (modified version of the Ford GPW Jeep) and one was found in an army vehicle lot. Carlin opined the thing could be used for a trip around the world, after a bit of modification. The idea stuck with him even after he married. He suggested they honeymoon by crossing the Atlantic in one of these vehicles. They didn’t.

Carlin did manage to buy a 1942 Ford GPA at a government auction and paid $901 for it. He tried to get Ford to sponsor his trip but they declined. Carlin added many features to the original craft and christened it Half-Safe. Together, Mr. and Mrs. Carlin attempted to make their first transatlantic crossing in 1948 leaving Montreal and made it only as far as New Jersey. They tried again a month later and had to return. More mechanical issues halted their third attempt. The fourth time they made it to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They gave up for a time while they made even more modifications. On July 19, 1950, they made their way from Halifax to Flores, the most western island of the Azores. And so they continued on their journey.

They made their way ever eastward and got through the Straits of Gibraltar and then brought their craft on land and drove through several European countries. They were forced to travel in fits and starts, partly because of funding issues and partly due to mechanical concerns. They were able to partially fund their journey with proceeds from the book Carlin wrote about their trip so far. Half Safe: Across the Atlantic in a Jeep sold about 32,000 copies and was translated into five languages. They drove and sailed and eventually made their way to Perth, Australia where Carlin was able to meet up with some of his family. Mrs. Carlin was tired of the journey and left her husband to finish alone.

He took off toward Asia and island hopped northwards. In Burma, Barry Hanley joined the trip and they made it as far as Japan before Hanley returned home. In Tokyo, Boyé Lafayette de Mente from Phoenix, Arizona joined the trip and they headed off to Alaska. They made it with some trouble and drove onward. De Mente left the trip and Carlin continued onward, now on land. He met his wife in San Francisco and then drove across the northern part of the US and on to Canada. He made it back to Montreal on this day after a trip covering 11,000 miles on sea and 62,000 miles on land. Carlin is the first and only person to circumnavigate the globe in an amphibious vehicle.

Don’t do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts. – Henry Rollins

Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death. – Omar N. Bradley

Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. – C. S. Lewis

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance. – Terry Pratchett


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