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Thor Heyerdahl
(6 Oct 1914 - 18 Apr 2002)

Norwegian ethnologist and adventurer who organized and led the famous Kon-Tiki (28 Apr 1947) and Ra (1969-70) transoceanic raft voyage scientific expeditions.

New York Times Logo 1912




The crashing landfall of the raft Kon-Tiki on an uninhabited island of the Pacific Tuamotos ends one of the great adventure stories of our time. It was a voyage at once into the unknown present and the remote past. The survival of the six-man crew in the roaring breakers which swept their frail craft on the Raroia Reef makes it seem as though the sun god of prehistoric Peru, for whom the raft was named, had guided them through all their perils.

These Scandinavian scientists set out four months ago from Callao, Peru, to prove by example a bold ethnological theory of their leader, Thor Heyerdahl. Most scientists hold that the Polynesian islands were settled by sea-roving migrants from Asia. Dr. Heyerdahl on the contrary, believes they were settled from the shores of South America by drifting navigators of the strange blond race that, legend says, ruled ancient Peru long before the Incas took over. Their last stronghold still stands in the cyclopean ruins of Tiahuanaco on highlands around Lake Titicaca and their grave relics indicate that they were skilled in the use of seagoing rafts like the Kon-Tiki.

Built of lashed balsa logs, with centerboards, a single mast and sail, a steering oar and a kind of jungle hut set on her forty-five-foot deck, the Kon-Tiki proved a wonder craft. Though her best speed was little more than four miles an hour she rode the waves like a cork, even over storm crests twenty-five feet high. Food came to her decks unsought. Fish which surrounded her in all the colors of the rainbow flopped up from the ocean eager for the cooking pots. The early Peruvians, no doubt lacked the primus stove, the lanterns, the radio, the rubber dinghy and the emergency equipment the scientists took along, but they had their earthen fire-pots and a reserve water supply in hollowed canes. They couldn’t have gone hungry or thirsty.

Dr. Heyerdahl was confident the Humboldt current would carry the Kon-Tiki to the Tuamoto archipelago, more than 4,000 miles away. Perils, indeed, were encountered on the way—sharks, a school of inquisitive whales, several severe storms and the final struggle to shore through the breakers—but the only casualty was one green parrot removed by the wind just as he was learning to speak Norwegian. Otherwise it was a voyage any of us might envy, a happy holiday of sun-drenched days and starlit nights far from the madding crowd and all the troubles of our bewildered modern world.

Editorial from: New York Times, Tuesday, 12 Aug 1947, page 22.

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Thor Heyerdahl.
  • 6 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Heyerdahl's birth.
  • “Kon-Tiki Trip Ends on Pacific Reef” - article by Thor Heyerdahl in New York Times (11 Aug 1947).
  • 28 Apr 1947 - event description for departure of Kon-Tiki raft from Peru bound for Polynesia.
  • 7 Aug 1947 - event description for arrival of Kon-Tiki raft on Raroia reef.
  • Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl. - book suggestion.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)

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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 20 -
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by Ian Ellis
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