OUS to present peek into Australia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

While many travel to Australia to sightsee, Dr. Robert Culp went there with a mission.

The chemistry professor and a dozen other Ohio University Southern faculty and staff traveled to the Outback on a quest to find the Man from Snowy River, hero of Banjo Patterson’s epic story of one rider’s determination.

Freshly back from Corryong, home of stockman Jack Riley, whom the poem is said to be based on, Culp and the others will share their story in words and images at 7 p.m. Thursday in OUS’ Bowman Auditorium.

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Although Culp went looking for a long-dead historical figure, he found many along the way who had actually shaped the history of Australia.

“I’d go out to a historical site and they’ve got photos of the people who made the history, and it was these same guys I was meeting,” Culp said. “So I say that I went to Australia to learn the history of the bush, and I met the people who made the history.”

Culp also saw history in the making as he watched work on the Snowy River Scheme, a massive engineering project that’s redirecting the river so it can be used for hydroelectric power; an effort that’s literally changing the face of Australia.

What hasn’t changed though is the look of many of the small towns like Corryong. Culp said that walking the streets of the town, which is 200 miles north of Melbourne and has a population of just 1200, was like a trip back in time.

“It was like the U.S. in the 1960s, little towns, no shopping centers,” Culp said. “But they’re little towns that are thriving.”

Although Corryong is the birthplace of one of the country’s most popular legends, it doesn’t get much tourism, something Culp was reminded of almost daily.

“I’ve never been to a more friendly place in all my life, and I’ve traveled all over the world,” Culp said. “What was interesting was that we’d be driving along, and a car would pull up beside us, beep its horn and ask ‘Are you the Yanks from Ohio University?’ And then they’d pull by and their license plate would be from Queensland, 1,000 miles away from where we were.”

They might have traveled to find the Man from Snowy River, but Culp and crew left with more than a few lifelong friends, many of whom they still communicate with. Those who’d like a glimpse of the Yanks’ experiences through pictures and stories can find them at the Bowman Auditorium from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday.