Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kon Tiki

Sometimes I find a little treasure when I least expect it. Watching the (new) movie Kon Tiki last night, I found one of the crew members, Erik Hesselberg, wearing a Basque beret!
Kon-Tiki was the raft used by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands. It was named after the Inca sun god, Viracocha, for whom "Kon-Tiki" was said to be an old name. 
The original crew, with Erik Hesselberg wearing his beret
I guess I knew a bit about Thor Heyerdahl and his fantastic adventure, but watching the movie was an eye-opener (and not only for that beret...). Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times, although most anthropologists now believe they did not. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. 
The crew as per the 2013 film Kon Tiki
Although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, Heyerdahl argued they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey.
Erik Hesselberg, with beret and sextant
The Kon-Tiki expedition was funded by private loans, along with donations of equipment from the US Army. Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where, with the help of dockyard facilities provided by the Peruvian authorities, they constructed the raft out of balsa logs and other native materials in an indigenous style as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. The trip began on April 28, 1947; they sailed the raft for 101 days over 6900 km (4,300 miles) across the Pacific Ocean before smashing into a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947.
Odd-Magnus Williamson as Erik Hesselberg

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