"You know Mac, with a bit of titivation..."
December 24, 2012 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Ben Carlin was born in Western Australia in 1912. He served during World War II with the Royal Indian Engineers, and while awaiting demobilization Carlin came across a decommissioned Ford GPA (an amphibious Jeep). He was sure that "with a bit of titivation you could go around the world in one of these things."

Ben Carlin traveled to the United States after the war and purchased a Ford GPA from a military surplus auction. He and his wife Elinore set sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1948. The voyage was riddled with problems, both structural and marital. Elinore struggled with seasickness (and possibly Carlin's temper), and decided to call it quits when they reached Calcutta in 1954. She filed for divorce upon her return the United States, but Carlin pressed on.

Fellow Australian Barry Hanley agreed to accompany Ben from Rangoon through Burma and up to Vietnam. This leg of the journey was also harrowing due to Burma (Myanmar?)'s swampy conditions.

Upon reaching Japan, Hanley took a job and ceased traveling with Carlin, who was then joined by American sexpert and author Boyé de Mente. Together, they completed the trip back to to Montreal in 1958, ten years after setting "sail" with Elinore.

Ben Carlin died of a heart attack in 1981, and bequeathed his assets to Guilford Grammar School in Western Australia, which he attended as a child. The Half-Safe is on permanent display there, a great source of pride. His assets, and the proceeds from his bookHalf-Safe have gone toward the Charlotte (his mother) Carlin Sholarship, “for the proficiency of the English language with the avoidance of clichés.
posted by obscurator (10 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I can't imagine being caught in a hurricane in an amphibious car. What a fantastic story.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:16 PM on December 24, 2012

It brings a huge smile to my face merely to learn that a failed amphibious vehicle was nicknamed the Seep. As for Mr. Carlin, judging by the photos I'm able to find, I think Jeff Daniels should play him.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:47 PM on December 24, 2012

Sounds incredible, brave and ambitious. However, my feelings go out to his wife having to accompany him on such a quest. Reminds me of "The Mosquito Coast".
posted by greenhornet at 1:02 PM on December 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm surprised it didn't end up like this, minus the hidden BBC crew and rescue boats.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:51 PM on December 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love the fact that after so much time with half-safe, he had nothing but disdain for her.
posted by arcticseal at 2:03 PM on December 24, 2012

posted by obscurator at 2:11 PM on December 24, 2012

titivation - what a great word! Merry Xmas!
posted by sfts2 at 2:22 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

That de Mente guy seems worthy of a post of his own.
posted by kenko at 5:30 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

titivation: the result of making smart or sprucing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:54 AM on December 25, 2012

This is a great post, thanks!
I read "Half Safe" as a schoolboy and I feel it influenced my life.

Despite his faults he must have been a great engineer/mechanic and eventually an experienced 'sailor'.
posted by lungtaworld at 3:26 AM on December 25, 2012

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