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Thumbnail of Thor Heyerdahl (source)
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


Kon-Tiki Trip Ends on Pacific Reef;
Party Safe After 4,000-Mile Drift

by Thor Heyerdahl
Leader of the Kon-Tiki Pacific Raft Expedition

North American Newspaper Alliance

RAROIA REEF, Tuamotu Archipelago, Aug. 7 (delayed) — The Kon-Tiki Raft is on the reef here. The six of us who were its crew are safe and unhurt on an uninhabited island.

This marks the conclusion—and, as such, the success—of our expedition that set out April 28 from Peru to drift across the Pacific, as pre-Inca voyagers are believed to have drifted from South America to Polynesia.

In the nearly fifteen weeks we have made the drift of more than 4,000 miles in the flow of the Peruvian (Humboldt) and South Equatorial Currents.

After three days of trying to get around long, low Raroia Reef, a spot in the French Tuamotu Islands at about Latitude 16.30 South and 144.3 West- we finally were drawn right in among the coral rocks. As there was no choice left to us, we directed the raft right into the roaring twenty-five-foot waves that broke in the area. All men were ordered to cling to the basic nine logs that form the body of the raft. When 600 yards from shore, we grounded on a low, half submerged mass of coral. Giant breakers came in and threw us onto other rocks, each a little closer to shore

The balsa-wood raft was taking an awful beating. Our hut was smashed to bits, and our hardwood mast was carried away. The steering oar went, and the cross logs from the stern and the bow.

But the main logs held together, and we all clung to them, hoping for a chance to leap from them to some protruding coral and make our way along them to shore

Finally our chance came. We jumped onto some sharply pointed coral, along which we made our way 500 yards to shore. We are still there, on a tiny uninhabited island.

We have made several trips out to the marooned logs which constitute the remains of our raft, and have rescued most of our equipment. We also have our water and food supplies, and we are sleeping under the large Kin-Tiki sail- now stretched between two trees.

We will try to get the remaining logs into some quiet lagoon near here, and possibly we will be able to find some natives who can help us salvage the remains.

We are all in good condition and feel thankful that we have been able to save such things as food, water and an improvised radio.

Made Landfall on July 30

The Kon-Tiki Raft party reported first sighting land—Pukapuka Island in the Tuamotas—on July 30. It drifted about 260 miles more before hitting Raroia Reef.

The expedition left the port of Callao, Peru, on April 28 with the avowed purpose of testing the theory of its leader, Thor Heyerdahl, 32-year-old ethnologist, that the Pacific islands were originally settled by migrating peoples from prehistoric America.

The fifteen-ton raft was set adrift in the Peruvian (Humboldt) and South Equatorial Currents, which sweep near the Peruvian coast on a swing northward and then westward through the Pacific. The raft was designed to reassemble as closely as possible rafts used by the prehistoric inhabitants of Peru. It was constructed of logs of balsa wood and bamboo lashed together with rope.

The voyage, which involved several encounters with sharks and at least two severe storms, reached the half-way mark of its journey of 4,000 miles on June 11, when it reported a position 108 degrees West, 6 degrees 20 minutes South.

Dr. Heyerdahl was accompanied by five Scandinavian scientists, among them Lieut. Kurt Haugland, formerly of Norway's underground forces, who received the British Distinguished Service Order for his part in sabotaging the heavy-water plant at Rjukan in Norway during the war and took part in campaigns in Arctic Norway.

Other members of the party were Herman Watziner, second in command, who directed the building of the raft; Bengt Danielsson, Swedish sociologist and ethnologist; Erik Hesselberg, navigating officer, and Torstein Raaby, writer, painter and photographer.

Kon-Tiki was the name given to the Sun God by the ancient Peruvians.

From: The New York Times (Mon 11 Aug 1947), 1.

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Thor Heyerdahl.
  • 6 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Heyerdahl's birth.
  • Six Men on a Raft - Editorial from New York Times (12 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.
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