The True Story Of A Crazy Man Who Journeyed Around The World In An Amphibious Jeep For 10 Years
Categories: Life Stories
The adventurer heart of Ben Carlin sent him to accomplish many things in his lifetime. Through all his travels he demonstrated the power of will and determination. When Ben Carlin first proposed the idea of traveling around the globe in an amphibious jeep, people laughed. By 1958, he had traveled 50,037 miles into 38 different countries and the idea didn't seem so crazy anymore.
While serving time in the military following World War II, Australian Ben Carlin noticed the Ford GPA amphibious vehicle used by Allied powers in a military lot. To the amusement of his fellow service members, Carlin remarked that it was probably possible to travel around the world in one of the modified Jeeps.
The idea returned to Ben after he married an American named Elinore. The newlyweds purchased a GPA originally manufactured for the war from a government auction for $901, intending to sail it across the Atlantic Ocean as a honeymoon venture.
The craft required several modifications before it was ready to travel the globe. The Carlins added a bow, a rudder, a larger cabin, and two extra fuel tanks to extend the fuel capacity to 200 from the original 12. They named their new vehicle Half-Safe after the slogan of Arrid deodorant: "Don't be half-safe – use Arrid to be sure."
Tests on the Half-Safe began in 1947 with a land trip from Montreal, Canada to New York City. They set out on their first transatlantic trip attempt in 1948 from the New York Harbor. It ended in failure. Third and fourth attempts were also not successful due to mechanical issues and the Carlins were forced to shelve their honeymoon project for the time being.
The project's break allowed the Carlins to further modify their vehicle and to continue fundraising. Originally, Ben hoped Ford would sponsor his trip, but when the company refused, he and Elinore took temporary jobs. In the interim, they added fuel capacity, altered the craft's structure, and added extra stabilizing rudders. They also continued testing the vehicle in Halifax..
The First Trip
Finally, on July 19, 1950, the couple set out from Halifax for a 32 day, cross atlantic journey that ended in Flores. Along the way, they lost radio contact and were forced to replace the head gasket and to clean carbon from the cylinder head several times. From Flores, the couple headed to Morocco and then to Europe, where they engaged in the kind of sight seeing typical of a honeymoon.
When Ben andElinore reached Birmingham in 1952, they decided to stay for a time to recuperate and to repair the Half-Safe which had been damaged during the journey. The couple exhibited their amphibious vehicle in European department stores to raise money for the next leg of the trip. While they rested, word of their incredible voyage had spread via Carlin's book, "Half Safe: Across the Atlantic by Jeep," which sold 32,000 copies across five languages.
The Carlins took off once more in early 1955 for France and continued their journey through Switzerland, Italy, and Yugoslavia. Next, they traveled through Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India. Finally, out of money, the couple headed for Australia where Carlin was reunited with his family.
In Australia, Elinore was finally tired of the constant travel and seasickness and returned to America. Ben continued without his new bride back to India and on to Burma, where he was joined by Hanley Barry. The pair continued onto Bangkok then to Saigon into Japan and onto Hong Kong, where Carlin was swarmed by female fans.
Later, back in Japan, Carlin linked up with an American journalist who offered to accompany him to Wakkanai, Hokkaidō and then to Alaska. The adventurers bounced around islands off the Alaskan mainland before finally landing at Homer in August of 1957. The journalist flew home from Anchorage to pen "Once a Fool: From Tokyo to Alaska by Amphibious Jeep."
Carlin continued on to Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California where he was reunited with his wife after two years of travel. The two turned back north to Canada and arrived in Montreal on May 13, 1958 to complete the 10-year journey. In total, it had cost them $35,000.