Frederick Benjamin “Ben” Carlin was born July 27, 1912 in Northam, Western Australia.
Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Ben enlisted in the Indian Army Corps of Engineers.
During the war, Carlin served in India, Iraq, Persia, Palestine, Syria, and Italy.
During the war, Ben came up with the idea of crossing an ocean in an amphibious vehicle.
Towards the end of the war, Carlin met an American Red Cross volunteer nurse, Elinore Arone, who was originally from Boston. On his discharge from service in 1946, the couple emigrated to Maryland, where they were married in June 1948.
When the couple began to discuss their honeymoon, Ben proposed they cross the Atlantic Ocean in a modified Ford Seagoing GPA ‘Seep,’ the amphibious version of the World War II Ford GPW Jeep.
They named their Seep “Half-Safe.”
The couple began their trip in Montreal, Canada but soon discovered that the Seep was not as successful an amphibious design as the Jeep; it was too slow and heavy on land and lacked sufficient seagoing abilities in open water.
After several unsuccessful attempts, they finally completed their transatlantic crossing in 1951.
From there, they travelled to Europe, temporarily settling in Birmingham to raise more money.
They resumed their journey in 1954, traveling overland through the Middle East before arriving in Calcutta.
After a short fund-raising trip to Australia, Ben’s wife Elinore left to return to the United States before formally divorcing him in 1955.
Ben resumed the journey in May of 1957 with new travel partner .
They traveled through South-East Asia and the Far East to the northern tip of Japan, and then on to Alaska.
After an extended tour through the United States and Canada, Ben and Half-Safe finally returned to Montreal on May 13,1958 after traveling over 17,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) by sea and 62,000 kilometres (39,000 miles) by land during his ten-year journey.
The entire trip ended up costing him his wife and around $35,000.
Ben then returned to the United States along with Half-Safe before leaving it with friend George Calimer and returning to Australia where he took up residence in Cottesloe.
Ben married Cynthia Henderson on June 1, 1963 and went on to have a daughter in March of 1964 before they divorced as well.
Ben then died of a heart attack on March 7, 1981 and was cremated at Karrakatta Cemetery.
Following Ben’s death, his old school, the Guildford Grammar School Foundation used money from his estate to purchase “Half-Safe” and transport the craft back to Australia in 1999.
The school also posthumously published “The Other Half of Half-Safe” which detailed the second portion of Ben’s journey.
Half-Safe is currently exhibited at Guildford Grammar’s main campus.
Carlin’s estate also was used to found the Charlotte Carlin Scholarship (named for his mother), awarded for “the proficiency of the English language with the avoidance of clichés.”
Today, Guinness World Records recognizes Ben Carlin as having completed the “first and only circumnavigation by an amphibious vehicle”.
Now WE know em