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With each passing year, less and less of the world remains to be discovered. With GPS and satellite imagery, our oceans have been charted and the jungles surveyed. Our world is no longer a mystery. No longer do we have maps fringed by threatening pictures of dragons and sea monsters warning sailors and explorers of the unknown that lies out there. But when I picked up this book I was taken back fifty years in time. Back to a time when men ate meat raw and walked around with clubs hunting big game. OK, perhaps I am getting carried away. Thor Heyerdahl believed the Polynesian islands were inhabited by sea faring travellers from Peru. But his thesis on this topic was ridiculed because no one would believe that the pacific ocean could be crossed by a flimsy raft made of balsa wood and bamboo. So Heyerdahl decides to prove IT IS possible by building a raft using exactly the same materials the ancient Peruvians used and sailing off the coast of Peru hoping to eventually reach Polynesia. Nearly every step off his journey was filled with nay sayers who said he was crazy and "experts" who variably told him he was going to die, the raft was going to break apart, or the balsa wood would absorb the sea water and sink. He ignored them all. When they told him balsa trees of the size he needed no longer existed along the coast, he took a jeep deep into the jungles through flooded roads and GOT his trees. Which then they floated down to the ocean in a river. Heyerdahl is keenly aware of his surroundings and describes his voyage vividly and in simple prose. I could smell the sea breeze and feel the spray of the ocean. It was like taking a mini vacation every time I sat down with this book. You'll swim with whale sharks and get caught in ferocious storms.Read more ›
Kon-Tiki starts with an idea, conceived during Heyerdahl's stay on a South Seas island researching his doctoral thesis: could Polynesia have been colonized by trans-Pacific emigres from the pre-Colombian cultures of South America? A true scientist, Heyerdahl isn't satisfied with deciding "yes" - he must test the theory! In the hands of a lesser man this would have produced a musty old thesis collecting dust on the back shelf of an anthropology library. Instead, Heyerdahl marshals five friends of heroic spirit, acquires 9 giant balsa wood logs and some other supplies, and within a few months he sets sail from Peru to cross the Pacific. Drinking fresh water stored in hollowed-out bamboo shafts and eating fish that leap aboard the raft, they make their way across the ocean, well knowing that despite the advanced radio technology of 1936, their chance of rescue in the event of mishap is nil. The only sea book I can think of to rival this for sheer interest and adventure is Verne's "20,000 Leagues under the Sea," - a fantasy. Heyerdahl's work is true, and his heroic heart shines through in every word. His love and reverence for the ocean and the primitive culture he sought to imitate, combined with his scientific clarity of exposition, make it a joy to read and will instill the sea-lust into even the most devoted landlubber. I think everyone ought to read this book, for sheer pleasure, and as an example of what can be done with stout heart, clear head, and good will. I recommend it to you without any reservation.
"Kon Tiki" is one of the great adventure stories of all time. In 1947, six young Norwegians floated in a balsa-wood raft from Peru to the Polynesian islands of the South Seas. The trip took them 101 days and they traveled 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific without seeing a single other boat or ship. Only occasionally were they able to communicate with the outside world by radio, and the possibility of rescue should their primitive raft sink or break up in the heavy seas they often experienced was slim to none.
The journey was inspired by the theories of Thor Heyerdahl who speculated that the ancient civilizations of Peru had floated across the Pacific to reach the Polynesian islands. Scoffed at by scientists, Heyerdahl organized the expedition to prove that a raft crossing of the Pacific was possible. It was a foolhardy stunt -- but makes for a great story.
"Kon Tiki" tells the story of the expedition from beginning to the end when the crew of the raft is marooned on an idyllic paradise isle in the South Pacific. Rereading the book after many years, I was most impressed with how isolated and empty the Pacific Ocean was and how unexploited was its sea life in 1947. I fear that such is no longer the case.
Heyerdahl's theories of oceanic migrations from the Americas to Polynesia are still pooh-baahed by archaeologists today, although it seems that the sweet potato by some means made it from Peru to Polynesia in pre-historic times. Whatever your opinion may be regarding Heyerdahl as a scientist the story of the "Kon Tiki" is unique and original. Read it and weep because the opportunity for an adventure of such scope and daring is no longer possible in our over-crowded world.
I have just finished reading this book straight through. In and of itself this statement alone is high praise for any book since I have only done that a few times prior. The story grabbed me hopelessly, only to release me upon it's unwelcome finale. Even then my psyche was thoroghly unwilling to release the warm embrace of Kon Tiki's quest into the primitive and yet tranquil oneness with our world's awesome power and beauty. "Whether it was 1947 B.C. or A.D. suddenly became of no significance. We lived, and that we felt with alert intensity. We realized that life had been full for men before the technical age also--in fact, fuller and richer in many ways than the life of modern man. Time and evolution somehow ceased to exist; all that was real and that mattered were the same today as they had always been and would always be. We were swallowed up in the absolute common measure of history--endless unbroken darkness under a swarm of stars." This page was earmarked by the book's previous reader, and I immediately shared his or her affection for the page; specifically, this quote. It, more than any other, summed up the emotions stirred in me by the author's gracious sharing over the years and miles of an adventure that I at once became a part of in my heart and soul. I am a brutish, biker-type dude. Generally speaking, tears are unacceptable in my "Big Twin" thundering realm of machismo. However, upon reaching the stories conclusion I was hard pressed to hold back...STRIKE THAT...I was unable to fight back (hard as I tried) salty tears unexplainable. Feeling an uncontrollable urge to let my girlfriend in on the moment, I struggled desperately to choke out for her the final few paragraphs. I now sense an overpowering need to alter my lifestyle; and will at the very least be haunted by this desire for a very long time! Thank you so much Mr. Heyerdahl, et.al.
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