Literary odyssey brings rewards

THE wilds of Africa provided Western Australian nomad Mari Rhydwen with the inspiration to write an essay for a recent competition by the UK-based magazine The Economist.

Dr Rhydwen was one of three Western Australian winners in a field of 1,200 entrants compe-ting for a share of $US60,000 in prize money from the Shell/The Economist competition.

The former Murdoch lecturer wrote her first prize essay aboard a yacht on a river in Kenya and, in doing so, won $US20,000.

Winning a bronze prize was Murdoch lecturer Peter McMahon, who works at the University’s institute for Sustainabilty and Technology. Another Western Australian, Tony Griffin, also won bronze.

About 80 Australians entered essays on the subject “Going faster – but where?”

Dr Rhydwen used experiences from the three years she spent aboard a yacht with her husband as inspiration for her essay.

Until three years ago, Dr Rhydwen was teaching linguistics at Murdoch, while her husband taught business management and strategic planning.

Their travel odyssey took them up Australia’s west coast to Darwin, then via Indonesia and Malaysia to Thailand, Sri Lanka, The Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles and Tanzania.

Armed with the prize, Dr Rhydwen and her husband now aim to point their yacht toward Perth in the next few months.

The Economist awards coordinator Ruth Andrianou said the The Economist/Shell writing prize first started in March 2000, when readers were invited to write about “The World in 2050”.

Following a positive response, the magazine decided to embark on the second competition as part of an overall theme of future thinking.

Entrants were asked to focus on any social, political, commercial technological, scientific or environmental issues facing the world in light of the increasing mobility and trans-port developments.

The topic brought in a wide range of responses, from tecnical essays to the more practical and personal experiences. Dr Rhydwen’s work spoke of the merits of travelling slowly, while Mr McMahon wrote on the different transport systems and Mr Griffin studied the future of tourism.

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