Somes Prisoners NZ

Book: Dark Sun: Te Rapunga & the Quest of George Dibbern

In brief: The biography of one of only two men who managed to get interned on Somes Island in both World Wars, having been deported back to Germany with most of the internees in 1919. A very intriguing character. See the NZ Herald review dated 21 June 2004.


TITLE:   Dark Sun: Te Rapunga & the Quest of George Dibbern
Author:  Erika Grundman
RRP:  $NZ49.99
Category: Biography
ISBN:  0-908990-93-6
Publication:  June 2004
Publishers:   David Ling Publishing Ltd., Auckland, NZ
About the book: Dark Sun is the remarkable story of self-confessed ‘vagabond’ George Dibbern. Following internment on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour in World War I, he returned to his native Germany where for ten years he struggled unsuccessfully to find employment and to adapt to the role of husband and father. In 1930, with his thirty-two foot ketch, Te Rapunga, he broke free from the impending scourge of Nazism, and the constraints and conventions of society.

He was to roam the Pacific for the next thirty years, interrupted only by a second internment on Somes Island in World War II, and died in Auckland in 1962 while preparing to return at last to his wife and three daughters in Germany.

‘ My life is one with the sea. We respect each other and I have no other master,’ he once said. He also maintained he answered solely to his own conscience, whose judgement was stricter than any statute of law. ‘If you live in harmony with life,’ he wrote, ‘life will take care of you.’ His book Quest, describing the initial four-year sea voyage that led to these convictions, was published in 1941 (Norton, Allen Lane). It won the admiration of American author Henry Miller, who wrote to Dibbern ‘as a brother’, and whose compassion and support helped Dibbern’s family to survive the devastation of Germany after World War II. Miller recognised in Dibbern a man, like himself, well ahead of his time.

Meticulously researched and told with the narrative tug of fiction, Dark Sun gives for the first time the full compelling story of the life of ‘German George’. It is a timely and inspiring chronicle of what one man accomplished and endured (as well as the repercussions to his family) when, acting on his beliefs, he sailed under his own flag, created his own passport – and ‘took his fun where he found it’.

(240 x 165mm, 544pp, ppr with flaps, 100 black and white photographs)

About the Author:   Erika Grundmann was born in Montreal, Canada, of German immigrant parents. Though the early years of her working life were associated with scientific research, her love of language remained with her. In 1989 she completed an MA in French language and literature. The combination of both facets of her training and interests well equipped her to assume the monumental challenge presented in writing George Dibbern’s story. She and her husband live on a northern Gulf Island of coastal British Columbia.
More Information: Visit Erika Grundmann's website: