The raft of Thor Heyerdahl

On the 7th of August in the year 1947, tossed by the waves crashing on the rocks, a raft of balsa wood and bamboo hit the reef that protected the quiet lagoon Raroria, a remote island in the Marquesas archipelago, in the middle of ‘Pacific Ocean.

After a long struggle with the breakers, the six men on board reached the shore, carrying what they had managed to recover from the wreck.


If he had witnesses (with the exception of the occupants) the scene would have appeared to them amazing. For generations, it did not look like a boat in those waters; in the direction from which it came. Eight thousand miles of ocean separating the island from the nearest land. Eight thousand miles on a raft of logs? It had to be shipwrecked! But they were not shipwrecked. One of the men had just landed the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. He was tired and a little ‘bruised, he had spent one hundred and one days at the mercy of the Pacific, but he had just proved his theory. Heyerdahl was born in 1914 in the village of Norvik in Norway, his early research interests were in biology and zoology, but soon began to take care of ethnology. During a trip to the Marquesas Islands in 1933 with his wife, Liv, was suddenly struck by some similarities between certain Polynesian traditions and those of ancient Amerindian peoples. The legendary founder of the Polynesian people, the Tiki god, son of the Sun, had led his people from those islands from somewhere “on the other side of the sea “:” a mountainous country burnt by the sun. “ With curious symmetry, a legend Andean spoke of a Sun King called Kon-Tiki, who fled by sea westward to escape his enemies. Heyerdahl was so convinced that the “mountainous country” was the South America and the Polynesians descended (at least in part) from an ancient Amerindian population that had preceded the Inca civilization. The hypothesis had only one weak point: no one thought possible to reach a Polynesian island starting from the coast of South America having only a stone-age technology.

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A vast expanse of water separating the American continent from the tiny land , a distance that had made it difficult for more experienced surfers. So Heyerdahl had decided to do a practical demonstration. Would have retraced the steps of the ancestors of the Polynesians: he reached the Marquesas Islands using a raft of logs, or the type of boat available on the coasts of Chile and Peru at the time when the alleged emigration had taken place.

The raft was built with nine large balsa wood logs coming from Ecuador, held together only by hemp ropes. The “bridge” was covered with bamboo trellis; at the center of the raft was placed a bamboo hut and straw to protect the occupants from the sun; aft a long oar-rudder. Slow and unsinkable; the raft sailed from Callao; on the coast of Peru on April 28, 1947.


Were on board Heyerdahl and five companions, a motley crew of people with no experience of the sea (the old then they did not have), with a small radio that came on board. A large square sail placed in a bamboo flagpole, swollen from the trade of the south-east, pushed the Kon-Tiki to the open ocean. After 101 days of navigation and survived two storms, feeding almost exclusively of fish and shellfish caught and sometimes even plankton; the six finally arrived safe and sound in the Marquesas archipelago, showing that such a fantastic trip it was at least possible.Risking their own lives and the lives of the crew just to prove a theory. Especially since Heyerdahl was terrified of water and could not swim.

Thor Heyerdahl in the following years he made other similar companies, building copies of ancient Egyptian boats with which he crossed the Atlantic and sailed the ships of reed that the Persian Gulf and led several archaeological expeditions on Easter Island, the Maldives, and the Canary Islands .

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26 risposte a "The raft of Thor Heyerdahl"

  1. It’s a funny coincidence that you liked my post and I consequently visited your blog, landing here, exactly four days after finishing to read Kon-tiki for second time!

    Piace a 5 people


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