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Olegas Truchanas (1923-1972)
Truchanas was one of the first Europeans to realise the value of the primal beauty of Tasmania's south-west wilderness. He was born in Lithuania and fought in the Lithuanian Resistance Movement. In 1945, after Lithuania was handed over to the USSR, he fled to Munich. He enrolled at university to study law but was sent with other students to a camp for displaced people. He migrated to Tasmania in 1948. Under an Australian law of that time he had to work for two years in industry or public works. He worked at the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon, Hobart, pushing old trucks loaded with metal along worn and rusty rails. He relieved this drudgery by photographing the Tasmanian wilderness, first in monochrome and later in colour. In 1958 Truchanas sailed in a kayak into Strahan, at the top of the vast Macquarie Harbour on the west coast. When he appeared from the southern end of the harbour the people were stunned - they knew that the only road in the area came into Strahan, and that he had not left from there. He had kayaked down the Serpentine and Gordon Rivers, a feat never before accomplished in the years of European settlement. He had no paddle, but had rigged a foot-controlled groundsheet as a sail so that he could read as he sailed along. Truchanas had negotiated the narrow gorges, rapids, rocks and whirlpools of the Gordon River, reputed to carry more water than any other river in Australia. Truchanas devoted his life to exploring and photographing the wilderness, bringing it to the notice of thousands of people who might otherwise not have been aware of its beauty. During the bushfires of 1967 he lost his house and many of his photographs. He drowned in 1972, trapped in a kayak on the Gordon River.