Thor and the Kon Tiki

Thor Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, Norway
on October 6, 1914. His father worked as a brewer while Heyerdahl’s
mother held a leadership position at a local museum. Heyerdahl spent his childhood trekking through
the forest at the edge of town and then climbing mountains with his pet husky. Despite those adventures, he only learned
to swim in his twenties- nearly drowning twice when he was young led to an understandable
fear of water until then. After studying geology and zoology at the
University of Oslo, Heyerdahl embarked on a yearlong stay (1937-1938) on an island in
the South Pacific called Fatu Hiva. The trip served the dual purpose of giving
Heyerdahl the opportunity to study the local flora and fauna while also serving as a honeymoon
with his new wife, Liv Coucheron Torp Heyerdahl. A portion of Heyerdahl’s time of Fatu Hiva
was spent with local villagers and a conversation with a village elder forever changed his life. The elder told Heyerdahl legends about his
ancestors, claiming they came from a land far to the east of the island and their leader
was a man named Tiki. The name Tiki stuck with Heyerdahl. It was similar to the legendary fair skinned
Peruvian sun king/god, Con-Tici (aka Viracocha), who ruled over a pre-Incan fair skinned people
living near Lake Titicaca in South America. He also saw parallels in the legends from
the village elder and the stories told about the fair skinned people being massacred, with
the survivors fleeing to the sea. This and other such tenuous evidence led Heyerdahl
to hypothesize that Con-Tiki might very well be who the elder referred to as Tiki and that
the rafts and this legendary people of Peru could possibly have survived the trip across
the Pacific Ocean. So, in his view, the islands may not have
been populated by people from Asia as previously thought, but instead by those from South America. Heyerdahl met countless objections to his
theory from academics and others, and he had difficulty getting his thesis, “Polynesia
and America: A Study in Prehistoric Relations,” published. The consensus was that a primitive raft could
not withstand the violent storms that frequently occurred in the South Pacific. Plus, there was the question of whether or
not humans of this period with the technology at hand could have survived the journey when
exposed to the elements for the length of time it would take to get from South America
to Polynesia. Thus, the long-held theory stood- that 5,500
years ago or so, people from Asia traveled to Polynesia and gradually settled the islands. kon-tiki-imageTo get around these objections,
Heyerdahl decided to put his life on the line to prove it could be done. After scrounging up from various sources a
little over $22,000 for the journey, he then went searching for a few people to accompany
him, placing an ad stating: “Am going to cross the Pacific on a wooden raft to support
a theory that the South Sea islands were peopled from Peru. Will you come? Reply at once.” He assembled a team of five men, four fellow
Norwegians and a Swede, to sail with him from Peru to Polynesia. Then he flew to Peru where he and his crew
painstakingly recreated a raft according to the materials and technology found in pre-Colombian
Peru. The resulting raft was fashioned of nine balsawood
logs tied together with hemp ropes and a bamboo cabin open at one side for shelter. They christened it “Kon-Tiki.” Heyerdahl was thirty-two years old when the
Kon-Tiki left port on April 28, 1947. He was joined by his five crewmembers, a green
parrot, multiple portable radios, a hand crank generator and batteries, 275 gallons of water
stored in cans as well as sealed bamboo rods, and various food supplies such as numerous
coconuts and sweet potatoes, as well as field rations supplied by the United States military
and other implements needed to document the journey. The men spent the next three months battling
the dangerous weather and ocean swells, taunting sharks that swam close to their craft, and
supplementing their provisions with various fish, which were reportedly, along with the
sharks, the explorers’ near constant companions around the boat during the entire journey. They sent regular radio reports back to the
mainland on their progress and Heyerdahl filmed sections of their voyage on his camera. KonTikiNFI400On August 7, 1947, the Kon-Tiki
had traveled some 4,300 miles when it finally hit a reef and forced the crew to land on
an uninhabited island off of Raroia, in French Polynesia. They spotted shore about a week and 260 miles
earlier at Angatau atoll, but were unable to land safely. Nevertheless, one hundred and one days after
setting out from Peru, Heyerdahl proved that the nautical technology available to pre-Columbian
Peruvians could have successfully brought them to Polynesia. Heyerdahl returned to Norway to global fanfare. His footage from the expedition netted him
an Oscar in 1951 for Best Documentary Film, and his book titled The Kon-Tiki Expedition:
By Raft Across the South Seas has been translated into 65 languages and has sold an estimated
20 million copies- the whole thing becoming something of a cultural phenomenon with “Tiki
bars,” “Tiki shorts,” “Tiki Torches,” etc. popping up, as well as the famous “Tiki
Room” in Disneyland. But, as you might imagine would happen when
a husband decides to take an extremely dangerous several month jaunt across the big blue without
his wife, his personal life suffered irrecoverable damage, and he and Liv got divorced in 1948. One of their sons later claimed of this that
his mother had felt betrayed because, when they got married, it was supposedly with the
understanding that she would be a partner in Heyerdahl’s research and exploration,
but ultimately that promise was never fulfilled. He also stated, “My father couldn’t cope
with her being such a strong, independent woman. His idea of the perfect female was a Japanese
geisha, and my mother was no geisha.” Thor-Heyerdahl-s_01Of course, proving that
something could be done and proving that it was done are two different things and Heyerdahl’s
theory was still not well accepted. Potential evidence cited against his idea
included differences in the language and cultural traits between the people on the islands and
those in South America. Heyerdahl died in 2002, not living to see
that he, in fact, had the last word… sort of. In 2011, Professor Erik Thorsby of the University
of Oslo performed genetic tests on inhabitants of Easter Island. While it is true that the previous idea that
the islanders had originally come from Asia did bear out, on the whole, Dr. Thorsby also
discovered that at some point DNA that could only have come from Native Americans was also
introduced into the population, whether via the islanders making the jaunt across the
ocean and back, or from peoples from South America making a one way trip. Further research into the matter showed that
the South American component of the DNA in the Rapanui people tested seems to have been
introduced around the mid-13th century to the late 15th century. For reference, the particular island in question
wasn’t colonized by Polynesians until the early 13th century. So, in the end, genetic evidence seems to
suggest that Heyerdahl and the popular opinion were both right, and both wrong. Thor Heyerdahl also hypothesized that Egyptians
may have traveled to the Americas, based upon the building of pyramids in both areas, and
had a traditional boat that would have been available to the Egyptians built. After naming the boat after the sun god Ra,
Heyerdahl set off with a crew from Morocco for the Americas on May 25, 1969. The ship sank 600 miles short of its goal,
but he completed the journey a year later with the Ra II. A third expedition in a recreated Mesopotamian-era
read ship, named the Tigris, that was meant to sail from the Tigris River to the Red Sea,
ended after five months. The North Yemen government refused to let
the ship pass, and Heyerdahl burnt the ship in the port of Djibouti in early April 1978.

23 thoughts on “Thor and the Kon Tiki

  1. His views on women aside, he was kind of a badass. The original "hold my beer".

  2. The Ra II was actually construced to specifications, not of Egyptian origin, but to those of the then-current South American cuture

  3. I have no idea who's on the title but by the time this video is over I'll have something to share with my children, valuable knowledge!!!!

  4. I learn a new thing every day thanks to your channel. Awesome video, keep it up!

  5. Thor inspires me. Women will have the last laugh in exploration. Space exploration is big, any trip will take a long time. At 20 to 300 million sperm per milliliter there's no need to take the rest of a male. The social normalisation (big strong hairy man type and geisha type) conditioning can be done on arrival. 🤠

  6. The Kon Tiki Expedition is one of my all time favourite books, I've read it three times and recommend it. He died excavating the pyramids on Tenerife where they created a museum in his name and of his life's works. I found this on holiday there by accident and nearly creamed my pants. What a guy, what an adventure!

  7. His movie was a high school staple when I attended way back when. Good job Simon, thanks.

  8. I had a 6×6 inch piece of wood from the Kon Tiki from Mr. Thor when I was around 10 years that was one of my top 20 interesting items I had as a youth. Take me back to Ol Virginity!

  9. I’m pretty amazed that ANYONE who lives near water at all doesn’t learn to swim. Actually, Simon, it would be be pretty interesting to know why a lot of SAILORS couldn’t swim🤔. It’s not that hard to learn.🤷‍♀️. A three year old can learn it it two weeks. I’m thinking mostly of British, but I guess Scandinavian sailors couldn’t either. Both of those places relied heavily on the ocean. It seems pretty bizarre to me.

  10. I was just trying to get my wife to remember the Kon-Tiki last week.
    Christopher Heyerdahl, the actor, is Thor's nephew.

  11. Have you ever looked into any of Tim Severin's exercises in experimental archeology? The Brendan Voyage, the Sindbad Voyage, et cetera? If not, then I think you'd find his work quite interesting and perhaps YouTube-worthy.

  12. Thank you for pronouncing my cousin's name correctly. (Grandfather's second cousin to be precise).

    I asked him if he were going to do any more of these trips in the late 80s when I was old enough to go but he said he was getting too old for adventures.

  13. That was one BRAVE Swede, to sail across the Pacific with five No rwegians!

  14. i met the crew when they were in mooloolaba in the 60's. a very nice bunch of people.

  15. You can tell Thor's kid went with its mother. It obviously heard only one side of the argument while growing up.

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