Winter 2006 (14.4)
Pacific Voyage (Summer
Heyerdahl's Theories about Kon-Tiki 60 Years Later
by Torgeir Sæverud
Higraff with Betty Blair
Kon-Tiki with Tangaroa - Chart
2. Torgeir Crew
1. Kon-Tiki Raft
2. Preparing the
4. Voyage on the Raft
- PDF format - 1.3 MB (pages 28-53)
Part 1 PDF
- 436 KB (pages 28-34)
Part 2 PDF-
596 KB (pages 36-45)
Part 3 PDF-
268 KB (pages 46-51)
Part 4 PDF- 96
KB (page 53)
As far back as I can ever remember, Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002)
has always been my hero. Ever since childhood. I know I'm not
alone. The ventures of this great explorer, anthropologist and
archaeologist on the high seas have captured the imagination
of millions of people around the world, making him the most famous
Norwegian as well as one of the most well-known international
figures of the 20th century. His fame is most closely associated
with his first voyage across the Pacific Ocean on a primitive
balsa raft named "Kon-Tiki", the Inca name for "Sun
Left: Crew that sailed the Tangaroa raft from Peru to
the Polynesian islands (April to August 2006). Left to right:
Torgeir S. Higraff (expedition leader), Anders Berg (photographer),
Olav Heyerdahl (carpenter, scuba diver and grandson of the famous
Thor Heyerdahl who led a similar expedition in 1947), standing
behind: Bjarne Krekvik (captain), Øyvin Lauten (executive
officer) and Roberto Sala (Peruvian ex-navy sailor).
Despite how risky that undertaking was, one must keep in mind
that Heyerdahl always carried out exhaustive anthropological
and historical research before ever embarking on any type of
archaeological experiment - whether on land or sea. In anticipation
of that bold venture floating on a primitive raft to the Polynesian
islands, Heyerdahl had spent an enormous amount of time in the
"field". In 1937 he took his newly-married wife Liv
on a steamer to the island of Fatu-Hiva where for a year they
tried to live as close to nature as possible.
Unlike most people who spend their careers in academia, Heyerdahl
was willing to take risks to prove the merit of his ideas. He
challenged others - perhaps, it's more accurate to say that he
"provoked" others - to find evidence to counter his
theories. In this way, despite the fact that some of his ideas
turned out to be wrong, he still did the scientific world a great
favor. In addition, one cannot underestimate his contribution
to the general popular knowledge in making people aware of early
navigation and migration patterns across the continents.
He prodded researchers to rethink the early migration patterns
of man - not only in terms of the direction of immigration from
West to East, but in the feasibility and likelihood that early
man had had the capacity to cross vast expanses of water. Heyerdahl
generated enormous interest in numerous fields - cultural history,
anthropology, archaeology, botany, biology, early language and
environment. He raised major questions, not only about our past,
but about the future as well.
Would It Sail?
how convinced Heyerdahl was that the Kon-Tiki experiment would
work, he admitted to having doubts even up to the last moments
before launching out to sea.
So many flags were hoisted
on the Tangaroa. They represented the nationalities of the crew
(Norway, Sweden and Peru) as well as the countries participating
in the expedition (Ecuador and French Polynesia). In addition,
the community flag of Larvik, Norway, was raised as well.
A few days prior to
the voyage, Heyerdahl had chanced upon a Norwegian ship with
experienced Norwegian crewmembers aboard. He showed them the
Kon-Tiki. Their prognosis was not good: such a blunt-bowed, clumsy
craft with its small sail would never make it across the Pacific.
For sure, it wouldn't be able to keep afloat even for two weeks;
and even if it did, it would take the Kon-Tiki a year to reach
the Polynesian islands. Besides the ropes tying the logs together
would wear out from the continuous rubbing up and down as the
craft rose and fell with the waves.
Heyerdahl noted in his book Kon-Tiki: "Even if only one
of their arguments proved to be right, we didn't have a chance.
I'm afraid that I asked myself many times if we knew what we
were doing. I could not counter the warnings one by one myself
because I was not a seaman. But I had in reserve one single trump
in my hand, on which the whole voyage was founded. I knew all
the time in my heart that a maritime pre-historic civilization
used rafts like the Kon-Tiki to travel vast distances along the
coast of South America, long before Europeans set foot on the
continent. Could their ingenious boats have challenged the biggest
ocean of all - the Pacific?"
course, Heyerdahl's popularity must also be understood in the
context of World War II (1939-1945).
Map of Kon-Tiki voyage,
which generally followed by the Tangaroa raft.
Here was a handsome
young man embarking into the unknown on a simple primitive craft
across a vast, potentially turbulent and life-threatening ocean
with just a small, handpicked crew, simply to prove something
that they believed in. He dared by himself to challenge well-established
It was an enormously romantic idea - especially following on
the heels of a brutal war, which had destroyed the lives of so
many millions of people. Heyerdahl challenged the belief that
one's fate was pre-determined. He was convinced that despite
limitations, man could do much to shape his destiny. Only once
did I have the chance to meet my hero personally. It was back
in 2000. In Oslo. But, of course, the concept for our project,
which we would name "Tangaroa" (God of the Seas) was
inspired by Kon-Tiki.
I must have been mulling
over this idea for such an expedition for about 10 years. During
my studies at the University of Oslo in the mid-1990s, I had
read all of Thor Heyerdahl's books. I found them at second-hand
bookstores; they weren't available at the university bookstore.
Heyerdahl's book "American Indians in the Pacific: The Scientific
Theory behind the Kon-Tiki Expedition" is an impressive
volume of 800-plus pages with more than a thousand scholarly
references. Few people know about it and those who do, rarely
give Heyerdahl the credit he deserves for it. I also read his
other books like "Early Man and the Ocean" which provides
a good overview into the subject of early migrations.
I didn't read these books like any ordinary person in search
of adventure. I studied and analyzed them, digging into the references,
especially those written by scientists who opposed Heyerdahl's
ideas such as Lothrop (1932), Hornell (1931) and Dixon (1932,
Arguably, with the exception of James Hornell, such scholars
were not convinced that a balsa raft could carry people and goods
from the Americas to the Polynesian islands. They thought such
a crude boat wouldn't be buoyant and that shortly after it left
the shore, it would become waterlogged and sink. It was in the
midst of this heated debate that Heyerdahl decided to test his
hypothesis to convince the scientific world that it was, indeed,
possible for a raft to be carried along by ocean currents for
Left: Construction in progress of the Tangaroa at the
navy shipyard at Callao, Peru. The skeleton platform shows the
balsa logs, cross beams, bamboo flooring, and cabin prior to
laying down the "totora" reed on deck, which had been
specially made by Indians living at Lake Titicaca. Sisal hemp
was used to tie everything together.
Note the tall wooden guara (centerboard) in the lower right corner
of the raft. Skillful use of the guaras - by raising and lowering
these boards - enabled the crew to steer the raft against strong
winds and currents.
The 30-foot mast for the sail is lying to the left of the raft.
Photo: April 13, 2006 - two weeks prior to launching the raft.
Of course, spending
so much time buried in Heyerdahl's works didn't boost my grades
in Latin American History. I managed to pass, but the professor
blocked my pursuit to continue my Master's degree. In fact, when
I challenged him about the agenda of the program, he literally
kicked me out of the program.
I guess I should consider myself lucky to have even been given
a grade for the course and allowed to graduate. The experience
made me sensitive to some of the difficulties that Heyerdahl
himself had dealt with throughout his career. The greatest opposition
to his ideas came from academia. They stabbed him, wounded him,
but in the end, they never managed to stop him.
"The Kon-Tiki expedition opened my eyes to what the ocean
really is. It is a conveyor and not an isolator. The ocean has
been man's highway from the days he built the first buoyant ships,
long before he tamed the horse, invented wheels, and cut roads
through the virgin jungles."
- Thor Heyerdahl
Foreword in the 35th Anniversary Edition of his book Kon-Tiki,
(Washington Square Press, 1984)
So, with my academic
studies short-circuited, I decided to take a trip to Peru to
study these early indigenous cultures that had spread throughout
the region prior to the Spanish conquest. That was in 1996. I
traveled 15,000 kilometers in a 1979 Corolla from Atlanta, Georgia,
all the way down to Costa Rica and eventually ended up in Peru,
where my passion grew for the coastal culture. Whenever I would
visit a museum or archaeological site, I found myself jotting
down notes about prehistoric seafaring and primitive vessels.
But I never told anyone of my dream. Well, not before 1999 when
I met Mona - the woman who would become my future wife. I was
afraid that if I mentioned that I wanted to build a raft and
repeat Heyerdahl's Pacific expedition, it would have been like
telling people that I was going to be an astronaut! People would
have thought: "Yeah, sure! Dream on!" And they would
have smiled and nodded: "How wonderful!" and then politely
changed the subject to something more credible.
After Heyerdahl's death in April
2002, I told Mona that I really wanted to focus on making this
voyage during the next few years. It meant that she would have
to support me financially, which she did - for three years, though
I did earn some money as a teacher. This experiment also meant
that Mona would have to forget about the idea of having children
until after I returned from Tahiti.
And so, we came to an agreement and we began pursuing the idea
of what became the Tangaroa with enormous passion. And it was
Mona who became my greatest support and confidante.
Now that the expedition is over, maybe we'll be able to settle
down to a more normal life. We laugh about those strange episodes
at the beginning of our dreams for Tangaroa. It wouldn't have
been easy for any wife. Our apartment was always a mess-books
and papers all over the place.
"Boundaries? I've never seen one,
but I hear that they exist in the minds of most people."
explorer, environmentalist, experimental archaeologist and expedition
leader of the Kon-Tiki balsa raft (1947) and three other sea-going
made of reeds-all based on designs by early sea navigators.
Mona would tell friends and family: "He's planning a secret
project" but that would only whet their appetite and make
them probe further: "Was I studying at the university?"
"Was I writing a book?" I guess they couldn't believe
that someone would do research without having a course or without
Despite the fact that we had no funding, we spent the summer
of 2003 - actually, it was our honeymoon - trying to track down
balsa trees in Ecuador. The effort ended in failure. In the process,
we had had to cope with a mountain of difficulties, many of which
we would rather forget about. We began to realize that endurance
alone was not enough to guarantee our success. Sick, dirty, worn
out and disappointed, I told my wife: "It's time to go home.
Forget about these piddly little efforts; we have to start thinking
On the return flight
home to Norway, I started re-reading Heyerdahl's book, Kon-Tiki.
This time I didn't read for the plot. I wanted to learn directly
from the pioneer himself: "How had he been able to organize
such an undertaking?"
I read with new eyes. This time I focused on the process and
the gigantic effort it took to plan the expedition. From the
beginning, Heyerdahl had had the astuteness to present the experiment
as an official undertaking - not something amateurish. For example,
on his trip to Ecuador and Peru, he had carried letters of reference
and support from governments and VIPs ("very important persons").
I knew I had to concentrate more in this direction. It would
be critical to the project to meet the right people who could
facilitate my efforts, and it would be important to meet them
in the right sequence. I would need to gain the support of A,
who could help me to meet B, and so on.
Considering the scope of the project, I soon realized that I
would probably need the assistance of an entire alphabet! It
didn't take long to see that this project would be more time
consuming for us than it had been for Heyerdahl. Being knowledgeable
and courageous simply wasn't sufficient enough to carry out an
expedition of this magnitude.
Choosing the Tangaroa Crew
It was then that I met Anders Berg,
42. I happened to be in Sweden viewing footage at the largest
film archive that exists on Heyerdahl. Anders had worked directly
with the explorer over a period of several years. He was a professional
cameraman with Sebrafilm. Some weeks later, Anders emailed me,
asking to be the Swede to accompany us on the raft. "After
all," he argued, "there had been a Swede on the Kon-Tiki
- the prototype for the voyage. Besides, wouldn't I need a cameraman?"
Two years would pass before we finally were able to launch Tangaroa,
yet Anders never tired of the project, and he was committed to
making a film about the voyage. The Kon-Tiki footage had been
in black and white and awarded an Oscar in 1951 for Best Documentary.
The Tangaroa footage would be made in color with sound.
"Talk to Olav Heyerdahl!" the director at the Kon-Tiki
Museum in Oslo had advised. Olav, then 27, just happened to be
the grandson of Thor Heyerdahl. And as if that wasn't enough
to qualify him for the expedition, he also was a carpenter and
civil engineer. At the time when I first broached the subject
with him via email, he was scuba diving off the coast of South
"I built my first raft when I was seven years old. I
want the seven-year-olds of today to do the same thing. Let them
go out and take a good look at this big wondrous world around
them. Let them probe deeply into nature-not just to find the
right answers but more importantly, to learn to ask the right
- Torgeir Higraff,
Leader of Tangaroa Voyage
After completion of the 4,000 mile voyage on a primitive raft
from the Peruvian coast to the Polynesian Islands
After a few meetings, I decided to go ahead and invite Olav to
join the expedition. Naturally, he needed some time - the summer
of 2004 - to think about it.
Fortunately, he agreed. As a true handyman aboard the raft, he
became indispensable to the expedition, not only when we were
cutting down the balsa trees and floating the logs downriver,
or constructing the raft itself, but Olav was immensely helpful
onboard as well when we desperately needed to make repairs.
Also he was responsible for scuba diving, which enabled us to
get a glimpse of the marvels under the sea. Anders had an additional
camera that he would attach to a pole and submerge in the water
to capture the underwater life that Olav found. Olav scuba dived;
the rest of us only snorkeled.
Bjarne Krekvik, 53, joined us as captain of the Tangaroa. One
of the most experienced Viking ship sailors in Norway, Bjarne
was chosen because he could apply his vast knowledge in addition
to helping us with the rigging and navigation of the raft.
Bjarne had been the captain
of a replica of the Gokstad, a 9th century Viking ship called
Saga Siglar, which had sailed around the world in the 1980s.
He had later sailed it as the skipper when it went down in violent
winds and 14-meter waves in the Mediterranean in the 1990s. He
and his crew sailed that open Viking ship for hours in a life-threatening
hurricane before managing to get to safety in lifeboats. That's
what I call "real seamanship". Bjarne was considered
a hero back then. Now we had chosen him to organize our expedition
across the Pacific. I was proud to be among his crew.
Left: The Tangaroa sailed from the Peruvian coast to
the Polynesian islands, a distance of 4,620 miles (7,436 km)
from late April to early August 2006. The idea behind the design
of the raft was to improve upon Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki expedition
(1947), from a technical point of view which had sailed 60 years
The Tangaroa was a larger vessel and had a sail that was three
times as large. It arrived more quickly at its final destination
because the crew had learned to use "guara" centerboards
to steer the craft.
More than 300 applicants
from all over the world had sought this position. Everybody wanted
to be in Bjarne's shoes. On board the raft, it didn't take long
for the crew to realize that Bjarne was irreplaceable. He became
the key person behind the success of our expedition. In addition,
he was also responsible for any medical situation that might
Øyvin Lauten, 55, served as the "XO" (Executive
Officer), which made him second in command. He is an experienced
sailor, as well as a carpenter. He had also worked at the Geological
Institute at Oslo University. For that reason, he was responsible
for collecting the ocean water samples for scientific study during
the voyage. Such analysis is of international interest by organizations
such as the United Nations, World Wildlife Fund, the Norwegian
Council of Research, and various universities which are analysing
the samples now.
The last member to join our crew was Roberto Sala, 45. Actually,
it was the Peruvian Navy that chose him to represent South American
seamanship. Roberto turned out to be the only person on the raft
who never had any conflicts with anyone else during the entire
voyage - those three months at sea. Teambuilding is invaluable
under such cramped and perilous conditions, but Roberto proved
that inborn politeness is even more effective in such circumstances.
Also, there's another person - back on land - half a world away
who was indispensable for the project - Anne Thorenfeldt. I would
never have managed to keep track of all the details throughout
the planning and execution of the expedition without her enormous
assistance. She became our coordinator back in Norway and worked
behind the scenes, and has worked almost on a daily basis for
the past two years. She's another person who never seems to get
tired of what we were doing with the Tangaroa.
Above: The Tangaroa took advantage of modern
technology to facilitate communications and make the voyage by
raft safer. The raft was equipped with telephone, radar system,
solar panels, wind turbine, laptop computers and access to the
Internet. Here Captain Bjarne Krekvik from Sweden is making contact
with a captain of one of the four large container ships that
the raft passed during the voyage. Communication was important
in order to avoid any collision.
Tsunami Delays Trip
Eventually, we felt convinced that we could launch from Peru
in April 2005. Everything was targeted for that date but then
disaster struck when a deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean came
onshore on December 26, 2004, killing approximately 300,000 Indonesians,
Thais and Malaysians. It was the deadliest tsunami in recorded
history. Several of our donors backed off, and directed their
funds to help out in this tragedy. We supported their decision,
but it meant our plans for launching the Tangaroa would have
to be postponed for another year until 2006.
Later, fortunately, we were able to gain back some of those donors.
The extra year gave us some time to meet other potential donors
and a chance to make more specific plans about the film that
we wanted to make. The community in Larvik, the town in Norway
where Heyerdahl had grown up, became more and more interested
in the project. Businessman Thore Liverød made the decision
to purchase our raft even before we had built it. He wanted to
bring it back to Larvik so it could be the main attraction in
a museum that would be dedicated to the legacy of Thor Heyerdahl.
He wanted to make Larvik a world center in memory of its most
Frankly speaking, I didn't look forward to having to spend another
year in planning, but I was convinced we could still carry out
the expedition if we could only stick together and not give up
on the idea.
In short, the major obstacles that we faced those first two years
were in keeping the team together and generating sufficient funds
for the project. I had to borrow money from my wife and from
"To the innocent masses
in all industrialized countries, we direct our appeal. We must
wake up to the insane reality of our time.... We are all irresponsible,
unless we demand from responsible decision makers that modern
armaments must no longer be made available to people whose former
battle axes and swords our ancestors condemned."
- Excerpt from the Open Letter
that Thor Heyerdahl wrote to United Nations' Secretary General
Waldheim on April 3, 1978, upon landing on the coast of the Republic
of Djibouti, Africa. Heyerdahl and his crew had just survived
a five-month oceanic voyage of 4,200-miles only to be denied
a place to land because the entire region was engulfed in war.
In the end, Heyerdahl decided to torch his reed boat - the Tigris
- setting it ablaze as a bonfire for peace, protesting the wars
that were raging, fueled by arms sales by the major Western powers
and the Soviet Union.
At the same time, I kept saying "no" to practically
every invitation that came from friends - "no" to joining
them on national holidays when people normally take a break and
have fun. Instead, there I was hunkered down creating PowerPoint
presentations on my laptop, collecting invoices and keeping track
of all the financial accounts for this dream.
Whenever I felt a bit depressed about all the effort and time
it took, I had only to take a turn on the television to see how
many people were out there suffering who would have loved to
have been in my shoes. And when hundreds of men and women wrote
us from all over the world applying as crewmembers, I was reminded
that our expedition was, indeed, a rare privilege.
We learned so much throughout the process of preparations. I'll
have to admit that when we first started planning for the Tangaroa,
I underestimated how much labor it would take to construct the
If someone, not familiar with boat building, had looked at our
raft, and compared it with another raft, maybe they wouldn't
have seen any differences; that is, unless they studied the details
carefully. It's hard to describe what an effort it takes to construct
a good solid raft like the one we sailed to Polynesia. We needed
a strong, reliable vessel for the high seas but it also had to
be versatile enough to steer through the narrow passages of coral
reefs against strong currents and tidal waters in the lagoons.
Actually, the Tangaroa really did perform quite well at sea,
but it has been a difficult task to convince people that a successful
archaeological experiment doesn't just happen by mere chance
From the beginning, we had to divide the project into hundreds
of smaller tasks. First, we had to fund the project properly.
After that, we could start looking for the right trees to be
cut down in the right season so they would be sufficiently buoyant.
Another task was to make the sail. Another, to construct the
mast, and then to affix it to the log platform.
Tangaroa consisted of thousands of hours of labor. And the project
involved hundreds of experts in as many different tasks. Each
one of them was vital to the success of the voyage.
One of my photos is captioned: "Old experts prepare the
mast". We were able to locate a family team of four carpenters
who worked for weeks just to prepare the masts. Who would have
guessed that the process was so involved?
"Logs finally arrived" is another of Anders' photos.
Look at those logs! Imagine that you had only one month to transform
those logs into a perfect ocean-going vessel. That's why this
project was so difficult and one of the reasons why the outcome
is something to be proud of. The honor belongs to the hundreds
of dedicated people who were involved with the process and who
identify themselves with Tangaroa.
The Tangaroa expedition had two objectives: (1) to demonstrate
the versatility of the navigation system with "guaras"
(centerboards) and (2) to analyze the contamination in the Pacific
Ocean on a molecular level.
believe in war as a solution to any kind of conflict, nor do
I believe in heroism on the battlefield because I have never
seen any. I was in uniform for four years, and I know that heroism
doesn't occur from taking orders, but rather from people who
through their own willpower and strength are willing to sacrifice
their lives for an idea."
- from "Thor Heyerdahl, The Explorer," by Snorre Evensberget.
Oslo: J.M. Stenersens, 1994, p. 207
We also were able to carry out some very interesting experiments
with the use of the guara boards, testing the speed and steering
limitations of the ancient balsa raft. Our experience at sea
convinced us that the craftsmen who made such rafts probably
could have gone very far in such vessels, without ever being
concerned about the possibility of sinking.
To maintain control of the raft, you need large sails, along
with the knowledge of how to handle them. We used sails that
were three times larger than those on Kon-Tiki. The idealized
sketches [illustrating this article] show how the Tangaroa was
equipped with several keels. In Peru they call these keels "guaras".
They are boards, about 12-feet in length, a couple of inches
thick, and about 20 inches wide. They're made of heavy and durable
wood. These boards have holes drilled through them spaced several
centimeters apart, starting from the top and extending about
half way down, through which wooden pins can be inserted. The
pins are about a foot long with a two-inch diameter. The boards
serve as a sort of rudder to steer the raft. They are constructed
so that they can slide into specific slots between the bamboo
floor and the balsa hull logs. These boards provide a surface
area, which offer some resistance in the water beneath the vessel.
The Kon-Tiki raft was equipped with four such centerboards but
they were "fixed" and could not be raised or lowered.
However, the whole point of this clever invention is to raise
or lower the boards depending upon the winds and currents. When
the wind is constant, the direction and course of the vessel
can be changed if you move the boards to a higher or lower position.
For example, if you raise one of them 20 centimeters, the course
can change 20 degrees. So by lifting them up and down, we learned
how to steer the raft the way ancient man did. We discovered
that we could even steer directly into the wind.
Apparently, Heyerdahl had not seen sketches to understand that
the crew had to raise these guara boards up and down. At least
that's what he wrote in "American Indians". He mentions
there that if he had known how to steer the raft with centerboards,
he would never have smashed into the reef off the island of Raroia
in the Tuamotu Islands when they reached their destination in
Kon-Tiki also had a steering oar, but it wasn't very functional.
Consequently, the Kon-Tiki was largely subject to the whim of
wind and currents because they didn't know how to sail it directly
into the wind.
Vital Alsar, who organized the expedition of La Balsa raft, used
guara boards on his raft in 1970 - the craft he used to sail
between Peru all the way to Australia. By then it was understood
how to use them.
Our use of the guara on the Tangaroa is based on Heyerdahl's
observations that he made after completing his expedition of
the Kon-Tiki. In 1953, he carried out an experiment in Ecuador
with a small raft using the guara to understand how this mechanism
worked. He wrote about the dexterity of the centerboards in several
of his books, including "Early Man and the Ocean" (1978).
Our second major task concerned pollution in the ocean. On board,
we carried sophisticated scientific equipment in which to collect
ocean samples. We were particularly interested in trying to detect
and measure what is often referred to as "hidden pollution".
This refers not to oil slicks and such, but rather to the antibiotic
and hormone runoff into the oceans, which is leading to aberrations
and inability for species to reproduce. We wanted to examine
water pollution to determine how it affects the ability of animals
and plants to reproduce in the world's largest ocean.
According to Dag Oppen-Berntsen, Tangaroa's Science Officer on
land, "Oil usually attracts a great deal of attention since
oil slicks are so visible. It's easy to understand that oil spills
are detrimental for the environment. But invisible contamination
is worse. It can't be detected by the naked eye, yet it also
has a serious negative impact on plant and animal life in the
Xenobiotics (man-made molecules) can interfere with normal embryonic
development and sexual reproduction in a wide range of invertebrates
from fish to man. According to Oppen-Berntsen, the Tangaroa had
some advantages in collecting data over other types of modern
ocean-going research vessels. For example, the Tangaroa raft
sailed so much closer to the surface of the water. This gave
the crew a chance to sample surface film across the whole transect
of the Pacific Ocean.
Because the raft moved rather slowly [about the pace of a brisk
walk], the crew was able to affix devices under the raft to collect
and concentrate lipophilic pesticides and hormone disruptors.
This facilitated the replication of the way these organic environmental
toxins are bio-accumulated in living aquatic organisms. Again,
because of the slow pace of the raft, these samplings could be
collected over a time span of weeks, rather than days of faster
Therefore, the expedition hopes to produce more knowledge about
such "invisible" pollution that will enable scientists
to understand more about the marine food chain and find out how
this hidden pollution is affecting the life in the ocean.
Universities will have to determine if the water samples that
we collected contain dangerous molecules-pollution that makes
you and me unable to reproduce. We'll have to wait for the results.
Meantime, we can try to alert people to a problem that potentially
may even be more troubling than Global Warming.
Xenobiotics is cutting-edge science and the Tangaroa is cooperating
in this research with various scientific institutions, such as:
Biosense (Norway), Veterinary Institute (Norway), University
of Zurich (Switzerland), University of Bergen (Norway) and the
Institute of Water Investigations (Sweden). Currently, we're
waiting to hear from these scientific institutions to learn what
their analyses show.
Food and Water
The Kon-Tiki carried 250 gallons of water. For food, they took
200 coconuts, sweet potatoes, bottle gourds and other assorted
fruit and roots. The Quarter-Masters Department of the U.S. Army
provided field rations, tinned food, and survival equipment.
They also caught plentiful numbers of fish, particularly the
species that is known as "flying fish" (Parexocoetus
brachypterus), "dolphin" which often go by the name
of "Dorado" but which are also known as "Mahi
Mahi" (Coryphaena hippurus), yellowfin tuna and shark.
We, too, ate a lot of "flying fish". They would often
land right on the deck and we would fry and eat them. They tasted
like the small trout that one might catch in the icy mountain
rivers in Norway.
In addition, they would have been able to carry many tons of
water and food, like the dried potatoes from the Andes. Actually,
we were able to test the viability of transporting potatoes during
the three months we were at sea. Our experiment provides more
data to the theories that relate to ancient voyaging and inter-continental
We carried along potatoes from the Andes, which had been dried
by the Indians allegedly in the same way that the Incas had done
it centuries ago. Amazingly, those potatoes were still good six
months later. Primarily, Heyerdahl and his crew had relied upon
field rations from U.S. Navy in 1947 and had supplemented their
meals, as did we, with "dolphin" (Dorado) almost every
The Tangaroa carried 1700 liters (450 gallons) in 20-liter plastic
bottles stashed away between the large balsa logs and the bamboo
deck. There was plenty of space in that compartment. Actually,
we could have stored about 10 tons there. Sometimes, we used
some seawater in our dinner, or when making bread. But it turned
out we weren't really so thirsty and we had plenty of water left
when we reached land.
And what did we do with all that plastic? Upon arrival in Tahiti,
we met with the Ministry of Environment, and passed along those
plastic bottles from our water supply and army rations. It's
amazing how much plastic is used to wrap military rations. The
question is: "What does the U.S. Navy do with all their
plastic? There must be thousands of tons of it.
Though we didn't set out on this voyage to prove any specific
theory as Heyerdahl had, what we discovered is yet another argument
against anyone who thinks the oceans were barriers for non-industrial
people. Heyerdahl was convinced that oceans and seas served as
communicators for early man. Clearly, he was right.
Also, those who say that people could not navigate the seas using
such "primitive" rafts are wrong. Kon-Tiki was not
really a good example because Heyerdahl did not use the guara
boards the correct way. Tangaroa is a good example, but others
can construct even better rafts. Such is the process of science.
Little by little, knowledge and accurate information accumulate.
In the beginning, Tangaroa was just a dream. But after I convinced
myself that the project really was possible, I took it on as
a self-assigned mission. I felt it was a duty, more than a dream.
I'm convinced that's the reason we succeeded in carrying it out,
especially after the year's delay brought on by the tsunami disaster.
I'd have to admit that along the way I discovered more than just
The Tangaroa was so well prepared that upon looking back, it
seems so easy because we had no major problems. We never had
to carry out any spectacular emergency situations. We tried to
anticipate every possible difficulty before launching into the
Pacific - before, we were isolated and alone.
Bjarne was such an experienced sailor. He never allowed us to
launch this expedition without being prepared for every imaginable
emergency. And I'm sure we avoided numerous problems simply by
following his advice. He had vast experience. Many evenings he
would tell us: "Trim the sail tonight and we'll avoid problems."
And he was right.
We never took any chances. We tried to prepare for everything,
for hundreds of situations that, fortunately, did not happen.
Nevertheless, we prepared for them just the same. For example:
a simple small infection 2,000 miles from land can turn into
a major crisis. We carried medical supplies just like a field
hospital in anticipation of such problems.
"Man overboard!" can be a frightening prospect. We
equipped the raft with a rubber boat and engine. And we had a
rope of 300 meters length hanging from back of the raft. A big
yellow plastic buoy was tied to its end. Each night, everyone
who had watch duty had to wear life jackets.
In addition, we had outfitted our raft with two lifeboats and
six survival jackets from the Norwegian Navy. If we ever found
ourselves in an emergency, abandoned and floating in the Pacific,
a rescue team would have immediately been alerted to identify
our exact position in the water. These suits had been specially
designed by the Navy and had special reflector lights sewn into
the shoulders which would make a man swimming in the dark waters
visible at night. Whenever we felt there was a storm approaching,
we all put on these jackets.
"Breaking the Yard" (referring to the wooden beam attached
at the top of the sail) can also be a major problem. We carried
spare parts just in case we had to build a new one. The same
held true for the sail and ropes. As well, our diving equipment,
worth about $25,000, enabled us to repair anything that might
break underneath the raft.
Suddenly finding a big ship at sea bearing down on us would have
been a major problem. Our electronic equipment enabled us to
be aware of any ship's presence long before it appeared on the
horizon. We had to be concerned about any collision, especially
since we were relatively small, moved slowly and weren't so easily
visible to others.
At the same time, if we ran into a problem, we needed to have
the capability of alerting ships that might be passing. There
have been harrowing examples when rafts out in the ocean had
no equipment onboard to make other ships aware of them. Ships
would pass within a few miles distance while people were dying
on deck as was the experience of Tahiti Nui, for example.
Tangaroa is not the only vessel that set sail following the illustrious
example of Kon-Tiki in 1947. In fact, there have been at least
40 others (rafts, reed boats and canoes) according to Peter Capelotti
who researched the topic in his book, "Sea Drift: Rafting
Adventures in the Wake of Kon-Tiki". He describes several
of these voyages in great detail. Most of these experiments ran
into serious problems. Some were so badly conceived that you
could even call them irresponsible. The most serious problems
dealt with the crew, like when someone fell overboard, got sick,
injured or or was in danger of dying.
Then there were some crews that had so many bitter arguments
among themselves that it jeopardized the voyage. For example,
during the last experiment made by John Haslett, one person had
been added to the crew whom the organizers really had not spent
time getting to know. It turned out to be a very bad decision,
despite how adventurous their story made for "exciting"
reading. Haslett also had problems with ship worms ("teredo
navalis"). Within three weeks, the raft had been attacked
and eaten by these worms that burrowed themselves into the logs.
In my opinion, Vital Alsar's voyage with the "La Balsa"
in 1970 was the best one in terms of how the crew coped at sea.
Alsar had constructed a rather small raft and sailed it between
Ecuador and Australia. In comparison to the Tangaroa, La Balsa
was a small and extremely light raft. This affected the way it
rode the waves. Wind and water really beat down on them, while
on our larger craft, we slept like angels. The four crew members
on La Balsa were really tough guys.
A gale blew up and badly battered their small raft, one of the
crewmembers lost consciousness. Fortunately, they didn't lose
anyone at sea. It was really admirable that they didn't give
up. Life on a rather large-sized raft can be quite relaxed and
predictable, even amidst gales and storms. Size really does matter.
I would never go out on a raft without plenty of food, water
and safety equipment. It's too risky.
I tried to reach Alsar while making plans for the Tangaroa, but
he's the kind of guy who has no phone, fax or email. After about
a month of research, Nacho, a friend of mine from Spain, tracked
down one of Alsar's friends, who, in turn, passed my letter to
him. I had asked him what I thought were four critical questions.
The reply came back: "Good luck!" That was all the
advice he ever offered. Very informative! Perhaps, he was a busy
Another noble, but risky, experiment was the Tahiti Nui, led
by 65-year-old Eric de Bisshop in 1959. At the end of that harrowing
long voyage, the exhausted Bisshop collapsed and died. Such expeditions
like either "Tahiti Nui" or "La Balsa" are
much too risky if you're serious about presenting your project
to future generations, not to mention if you love your wife and
Hopefully, the Tangaroa experiment has hopefully set the standard
for safety and communication for future experiments. But it was
an expensive project, costing around $800,000, if one takes into
account all the tools, equipment, volunteer service and cash
that we spent.
Still I would encourage almost any attempt at such expeditions,
even from those who can't afford the latest safety equipment
or state-of-the art communications, just as long as they try
to bring back valuable scientific information, and a good story.
The reed boats that Heyerdahl sailed in the 1970s, 25 years after
his Kon-Tiki experiment, were long and narrow. But the balsa
raft is a totally different type of vessel. It is heavier, wider
and more stable. Tangaroa was made of 11 large balsa logs with
diameters between 80-100 cm (32-39 inches). Eight smaller logs
served as crossbeams to form a platform on top of them.
At the stern, the raft was 8 m (26 ft) wide, and at the bow,
it was 6 m (20 ft) wide. The longest log in the middle measured
17 m (51 ft). Those on the sides were 14 m (45 ft). Together
the logs weighed more than 20 tons.
Left: Map route of the Polynesian Islands
and the zigzag route that the Tangaroa took between Raroia and
Raiatea. The raft was then towed to Tahiti where it was shipped
back to Norway.
Balsa has unique properties;
it is exceptionally light. On my honeymoon with Mona in 2003,
we had visited one of the balsa tree plantations in Ecuador.
I discovered that alone, I could lift and carry a two-meter section
of the log. So in comparison to timber such as pine, balsa is
exceptionally light - about one third the density of ordinary
If a conventional sailboat even gets a small puncture in its
hull, it will sink. By contrast, a balsa wood raft can lose two
thirds of its hull and still keep its crew and cargo afloat.
I'm not sure how much Heyerdahl knew about balsa trees before
he chose them for his raft. For example, we don't know if Heyerdahl
cut male trees or female trees. I think I've exhausted everything
there is to read about balsa trees. Anyone wishing to undertake
such a voyage should research the topic themselves.
However, we do know that Heyerdahl's trees were harvested at
a time when they were full of sap. Since 1947, the seasons have
dramatically shifted and are delayed. When Heyerdahl cut the
trees in the beginning of February, the rain had poured for several
months. When we cut ours in late January, the rainy season had
not actually started.
Heyerdahl did not choose the right season to cut the trees and
it turns out that he was wrong in thinking that sap would protect
the logs from becoming water-soaked. In fact, they float much
better when they're drier.
Research convinced me to cut a ring in the trees and pull back
the bark a few inches before the rainy season started. This would
prevent the sap from rising in the trees from the wet ground.
It is actually good to drain the trees of sap as much as possible.
We facilitated the drying process by allowing the felled trees
to dry without stripping the branches and leaves from the trunk.
The sap in the balsa trunks runs through tiny, almost invisible
channels between the larger pores of wood fiber. Thus, when these
channels are full of sap, they act as a damper between the pores
that produce the hollow sound when you knock on the trunk. Indians
can detect the difference between trees simply through sound.
The less sap there is, the more resonance! Female trees are lighter
than males. You have to know the difference before you set sail
and give yourself to the sea. We've lost this basic knowledge
in making observations ourselves about nature but it was critical
for survival for early man.
Also, we used a special drill to take sample cores from the trees,
which had the largest diameters. This enabled us to determine
which trees were the driest and healthiest. As you can see, we
used modern technology to assist as much as possible in both
the construction and in sailing.
Heyerdahl's logbook that he kept on the Kon-Tiki has never been
published, but I was able to borrow it from the Kon-Tiki Museum
in Oslo and study it. The facts about his trip became clearer,
particularly in relationship to his observations about the weather
and wildlife. Heyerdahl paid a lot of attention to details. For
example, he used to document the number of flying fish they found
on deck each morning, the kinds of birds and number of sharks
they saw. He would note the size of the "dolphins"
(a fish species known as "Dorado" or "Mahi Mahi")
that they caught. He also made extensive notes describing how
they had prepared for the journey, such as how much food and
drinking water they stored on deck before leaving the Peruvian
port of Callao.
Now after our expedition, I respect Heyerdahl even more for his
ability to describe what he observed floating out there on the
ocean. I sometimes found it hard to put into words the natural
wonders that I saw, but Heyerdahl had a talent for this - both
for observation and expression - like the way he described dolphins
chasing after flying fish, or how fauna was growing on the logs
beneath the raft, or how the raft was turning into a floating
Heyerdahl must have had extraordinary leadership skills as well.
Imagine, even though his reed boat the Ra sank (1969), the same
team signed up with him to sail Ra II (1970) and also for the
Tigris (1977) as well. Now that's impressive!!!
If Heyerdahl were still with us, I would so much like to ask
him about so many details of the Kon-Tiki voyage. For example,
I wonder if they really experienced actual "storms"
at sea. He called them "storms" in his book, but the
logbook never mentioned "storms". Maybe they were "just"
gales like we had. Also, I'd like to ask him about life onboard
and about relations among the crew.
I think that he would have had questions for us, too. He may
have wondered about our use of the guara boards and our larger
sail since we arrived 31 days earlier than he did. And I think
he would have been curious about the similarities that we had
discovered between Viking ship technology and raft technology.
As you see, our expedition really wasn't about testing the ability
of a sea-going vessel that was an identical replication of circumstances
that sailors dealt with 2,000 years earlier. Philosophically,
we had no qualms about using modern technology to assist and
protect us. We felt that was the best way - to use every possible
modern piece of equipment available to ensure our safety.
For example, Jotron Electronics outfitted us with a very expensive
computer (radar) system, known as AIS (Automatic Identification
System). This equipment made it possible for us to track and
identify any ship at sea from several hundred nautical miles'
distance. This also gave us access to all data related to any
ship that we might pass. Even from a distance, we could determine
their size, location, speed, destination and nationality of the
registration. Likewise, other ships knew the same things about
us. Meeting up with a ship out there in the vast ocean didn't
happen very often but we were glad for this equipment. We considered
it a valuable safety feature.
We also had GPS (Global Positioning System) and a big satellite
dish that connected us to the world. However, such a connection
turned out to be very expensive - something we didn't quite realize
until we were half way through our journey. Imagine our shock
when we received a $20,000 telephone bill! Obviously, we had
to drastically limit the time we were spending on the Internet
from one hour total each a day to a mere 10 minutes. Being connected
to the Internet enabled us to transmit daily updates on our Web
page - TANGAROA.no - throughout the voyage. We generated electricity
from the six solar panels attached to the cabin roof. Curiously,
calling someone on the phone cost only about a dollar a minute
which, given the circumstances, was really quite reasonable.
We brought three Macintosh laptop computers onboard, which worked
fine despite the salt and humidity. We were used to working with
MACs for writing, photo work and video editing. When not in use,
we stored the computers in watertight Pelicase cases, which are
used for protecting cameras and other sensitive equipment. The
manufacturer even boasts that they can protect equipment to depths
of 30 feet under water.
In addition, we carried state-of-the art digital cameras, solar
panels and wind generators. We also had desalination equipment
in case we found ourselves in an emergency situation where we
would need to make our own drinking water.
The laptops also had DVD players, and we brought Ipods to listen
to music, but, mostly, we were fascinated with watching the waves,
the ocean and sky. We never got bored - at least I never did.
The most sophisticated equipment that Heyerdahl had on Kon-Tiki
was a short-wave radio that he had used in World War II. He also
used a sextant to determine his position. So did we. But we could
control the position with the GPS. Early man was so knowledgeable
he could navigate by the stars.
In regard to being physically fit for the trip, actually, one's
physical shape is not the most determining factor aboard such
a raft. However, from my experience as both teacher and trainer,
I'm convinced that one's physical shape says a lot about one's
mental condition. Actually, all of us were in good physical shape.
This was very useful when we had to raise the heavy sails, move
the steering keels (guaras) or climb the mast. But life onboard
was generally relaxed. Some days passed when we had nothing to
do at all. It wasn't like those ocean races in schooners.
Whenever we sensed a storm approaching, we would put our life
vests on. You could see the weather rolling in - heavy, dark
clouds - usually from the south about half an hour before the
storm would hit. Yes, there were times when we were quite far
from help if we would have needed it. At one point, we were 1,000
nautical miles (1,850 km / 1,150 miles) both from Easter Island
and from Peru. Despite that, we never felt loneliness. No one
ever mentioned to me that they felt lonely.
During the first weeks of the voyage, the nights were cloudy,
and we had to use flashlights to move around on the deck at night.
The lights attracted "flying fish" that sometimes would
smack right into us. It would sting because of their speed.
Then during the last half of the journey the sky was clear at
night. The stars were so bright and beautiful. It's so difficult
to describe such an awesome sight. The planet Jupiter would shine
so brilliantly that you could see its reflection in the ocean
- like a small moon. And with star map in hand, we could name
all of the major stars in the heavens. This made our three-hour
watch fly by so quickly. Sometimes, we didn't even want to return
to bed. We would just remain outside, gazing up at the stars,
hypnotized by the beauty of the night sky. And on nights when
there was a full moon, the light shone so brightly that we could
read out there in the blackness of the night. The large sail
served as a reflector of the moonlight.
We always assigned two crewmembers to stand watch at night, along
with one officer - either Bjarne or Øyvin. Another safety
precaution. The officers would divide the day between themselves,
and the rest of us would take turns assisting.
At night we had to watch out for a number of things. First of
all, raising and lowering the guara boards. This would enable
us to stay on course no matter which direction the wind blew.
As well, we always kept an eye out for those who had to get up
and relieve themselves in the middle of the night.
We would also watch for ships - both those that we could see
coming over the horizon and also those which would appear on
our "radar screen". Finally, it was always the responsibility
of night watch to clean up the deck in anticipation of the new
day, and to do some fishing and make breakfast. Basically our
working language on the raft was English. But when Roberto (a
Peruvian) was not close by, we often lapsed into Norwegian, and
Anders, the Swede, would reply in his mother tongue, which we
all could understand.
We did have to deal with several gales that suddenly whipped
up in the middle of the ocean. The waves would swell six to seven
meters. Fortunately, the raft would always lift up ever so gently
above them, and then we would surf down from the top of the wave,
picking up speed, accelerating up to about five knots [about
9.25 km or 6 miles per hour] before the wave subsided. That was
about twice the speed that our raft usually traveled. This rate
would continue for hours and sometimes, even for days. North
of Easter Island, we ran into some gale-like winds that lasted
for nearly a week, pushing us more than 85 nautical miles per
24 hours [about 157.5 km / 98 miles]. The record speed on Kon-Tiki
was 66 nautical miles [about 122 km / 76 miles].
We're back home now with 10,000 photos in hand, 100 hours of
film, and a million ideas. We've often been asked to tell our
story in front of a live audience though sometimes they limit
us to a 15-minute session to summarize what has actually taken
about 10 years to plan for and accomplish.
When it comes to radio and television, we were lucky to get five
minutes of coverage and it's very rare to be featured during
prime time. And often, we have felt that some journalists are
not concerned with the deeper issues that we were trying to convey.
Rather, they seemed more interested in learning whether we missed
chocolate or not while drifting three months across the Pacific.
Within 24 hours after I had arrived back home in Oslo, someone
swore at me because I had a beard and a "laid-back"
appearance. Perhaps, they saw me as a threat to others who regulate
their lives according to timetables and schedules. I guess I'll
have to get used to all this and get shaved and dressed "properly".
Back here in civilization, I see too many people who are doing
what I'm doing now - sitting in front of a computer, looking
at a screen and typing. "Life has become so easy,"
some say, "all we need to do is to push buttons". There
are way too many buttons to push. Instead of meeting people face
to face, here I am, sitting in front of a machine which requires
me to push buttons.
And where are the people? Always on their way to somewhere else.
If they relax somewhere with someone, they prefer talking on
a mobile phone with someone more distant.
"Come on!" I shout, "there's a huge world of nature
out there - just a few miles outside your door!" Go immerse
yourself in the awesomeness of nature. Instead, people are organized
in gray cubes of cement, surrounded by the sound of cars, buses,
beeps and electronic melodies. For me now, this all seems so
depressing and unbearable.
I can't understand why we, members of the human race, want it
to be like this. Why do people want to live in big cities? Why
do we kill ourselves slowly waiting in queues of cars on bigger
and bigger highways? When someone happens to mention the word
"ocean", I get the feeling that they are talking about
a friend that I know. It used to be different for me. The ocean
was a faceless, vast thing. The same with "currents"
and "waves". These concepts are all like family members
As a person, I don't know how much I have changed because of
the trip. I still have my sea legs, though I probably won't get
to use them again for a while. Now I spend more time looking
at the sky, at the clouds and stars. My visual awareness is more
perceptive and more powerful. I can sense the slightest changes
in the weather, whereas before, I couldn't have cared less.
Sometimes when I look back, I think I was so crazy to stand in
front of all those people and announce that I wanted to undertake
such a project, especially since I had absolutely no experience
in tackling such things. To organize an expedition like this
for someone like me, who had to start from zero, is impossible
if you look at the scope of the whole thing. It was only possible
by breaking it down into many small tasks, and meeting each task
head on, saying, "Yes, I will do it, I promise". I
didn't allow myself the luxury of saying, "Sorry, no, I
have too many problems!"
It was important to be positive with every encounter, meeting
anybody who could extend any assistance. Then it was necessary
to deliver, again and again and again, until people started to
believe, and until they told others to do the same. The effect
is synergetic. When many forces are working together towards
the same goal, and everybody shares the same reward, you're proud
to be a small cog in a big machine - to feel part of a team that
is doing something important.
A small, but very talented production company known as Videomaker
will be producing a 50-minute documentary film about our voyage.
There are plans for both Norwegian and English versions. It should
be out later this spring in time to celebrate the 60-year anniversary
of Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki voyage. Major television companies can
then purchase the footage.
Like the Kon-Tiki, the Tangaroa raft will be put on display,
surrounded by the story of the vision of the man who inspired
us. On November 18, 2006, the raft arrived back in Larvik, Norway,
the town where this great explorer and experimental archaeologist
grew up, thanks to Wallenius-Wilhelmsen Lines. Together with
the community, they will absorb the costs. Without a doubt, those
11 balsa logs and eight crossbeams are the most expensive logs
in history. Thousands of people have been involved in the preparation
process beginning with the choosing the trees in Quevedo, Ecuador,
until the raft arrived back in the harbor of Larvik for the museum.
People always underestimate projects like Tangaroa. Some have
told me: "This is not a scientific project," or "This
is not a replica of the ancient rafts. You used cranes and machines
to construct it."
"What?" I shoot back. "The greatest error among
similar archaeological experiments was that the team organizing
the project was too small and lacked sufficient resources - both
in practical experience and in economical support." We are
dealing with extinct knowledge and expertise, so we must compensate
by spending more time and investing more labor.
Every single part of the vessel needed to be made by the very
best craftsman or artisan that we could find. And every single
part had to be made with all the love and care and attention
that each person could possible bring to the task.
One of the first lessons we learn when we examine archaeology
or history closely is that modern man can never be as brilliant
as the original boat builder whose sailing vessel is now extinct.
It would be impossible for us to construct a raft like they did.
Simply, we really don't know how they did it. That means we have
to draw upon every resource possible.
Tangaroa is also about communication. Our job would have been
easy if we had made the trip just for the fun of it, without
telling others about our experiences. But we want to share our
insights as much as possible about how the ancient people were
able to steer such a raft across the vast oceans. That's why
we had a satellite antenna and a telephone onboard.
Now we want to contribute to the Thor Heyerdahl Center that is
being built in Larvik. There we will use modern technology to
tell people the story of our past, and to demonstrate what methods
we used to explore these questions.
Left: Islanders on Raiatea honor the Tangaroa
crew with orchid leis and oars made by local experts. Here Øyvin
Lauten (executive officer) on the Tangaroa honored after nearly
three months at sea.
Already articles about the Tangaroa have appeared in about
20 languages. I think many newspapers picked up the news item
about our successful arrival in the Polynesian Islands from Associated
Press (AP). While en route, we sent a short film to one of the
Already, it has been shown in as many languages. Even some of
our friends in Cyprus saw us on television. I've received letters
from people living in mountain villages in Austria, the coastal
towns of India and in New Zealand. We also have received letters
from every continent in the world, proving that we are, indeed,
part of the heritage of Thor Heyerdahl - something that we, indeed,
are very proud of.
I've now signed a contract for a book that will be published
in four Scandinavian languages: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and
Finnish. There's talk about it being printed in English and Spanish
editions as well. The first edition of the book is scheduled
for October 2007.
Of all the expeditions that I'm aware of, with the exception,
perhaps, of governmental projects in aerospace such as the Apollo,
I'm convinced that the balsa raft expedition is the one that
requires the broadest scope of research in order to accomplish
it successfully. Maybe it's a bit arrogant on my part to say
so, but consider that a mountaineer needs to know his mountain
and his gear. A polar skier needs to understand the nature of
ice and his sled.
But the person who dares to undertake a voyage by raft across
a vast ocean needs to know the prehistory of continents, the
archaeology of the region, modern history, biology and botany
of forests, rivers, and oceans, the oceanography and geography
of islands and atolls. In addition in this case, we had to persuade
four national navies (two recently at war with each other - Ecuador
and Peru) and a thousand helpers to join the team. That's why
Tangaroa was four years in the making. Fortunately, despite all
the burdens and hassles to accomplish this expedition, I can
honestly say that I'm not tired of it. Tangaroa's voyage across
the Pacific is finished, but I'm convinced our real journey has
When I was a seven-year-old child, I built my first raft. I'd
like to encourage the seven-year-olds of today to do the same
thing. Let them go out and take a good look at this big wondrous
world around them. Let them probe deeply into nature - not just
to find the right answers, but more importantly, to learn to
ask the right questions.
In the Polynesia islands,
the Tangaroa was towed from the island of Raiatea back to Tahiti.
From there, it was shipped to Bremerhaven, Germany (40,000 km)
via the carrier Talisman (Wallenius Wilhelmsen).
The final leg of the journey from Bremerhaven to the southern
Norwegian port of Larvik was completed on board the MV Bremer
Roland, which belongs to Icelandic carrier Samskip. The Tangaroa
arrived back in Norway on November 18, 2006. Plans are being
made for the Tangaroa raft to be showcased in the new museum
that is being planned for Larvik which is the town where Thor
Heyerdahl grew up. The Museum is dedicated to the legacy of Heyerdahl.
About the Tangaroa
Tangaroa Blog in English
Then click "Tangaroa" in first sentence of their description.
This takes you to English version of the main Web site for TANGAROA.no
The Kon-Tiki Museum
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