Customer Reviews: The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas
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on June 12, 2003
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. The six men caught sharks with their hands and even had a pet parrot. I suppose all self respecting seamen need to have a parrot.
The ending to this book was surprising but perfect. It brings the story full circle and could not have ended any other way. So prepare yourself a margarita, kick back, and begin a sea adventure.
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on December 30, 2000
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.
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on April 12, 1999
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,
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on January 27, 2005
"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.

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on April 27, 2013
I read this book when I was 10 or 12 years old and I have always remembered how brave and adventuresome the men were. Since there is now a movie out, I wanted to reread the book before seeing the film. I'm so glad I picked it up again. It is well written and really holds your attention. I highly recommend this. It is a great read from a great man.
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on May 17, 2000
Do you like reading books that have adventure and keep you in suspense? Then Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl is the book for you. Kon-Tiki is about a few explorers that wanted to prove that the inhabitants of a certain island in the Pacific came from Peru. The explorers start off at Peru, build a raft, and set off to prove their theory on their 2000-mile journey. On their trip they discover interesting things about sea life. They encountered whales, dolphins, sharks and other amazing creatures of the sea on their journey and learned a few things about them. One of my favorite parts about this book is when the explorers catch their food and interact with some of the sea creatures. They use the resources around them to catch their food and discover that living at sea is not as boring as it seems. This is one of the best books of its time. It has every thing to make you enjoy the story. Kon-Tiki will make you laugh and make you nervous. It will keep you in suspense and you will discover amazing things about the sea.
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VINE VOICEon July 16, 2004
Early in "Kon-Tiki," as Thor Heyerdahl and his compatriots are a assembling a make-shift raft to float across the Pacific, a government official calls Heyerdahl to his office.

"Are your parents living?" the official asks.

Yes, says Heyerdahl.

"Your mother and father will be very grieved when they hear of your death," says the official.

It was a reasonable assumption. What Heyerdahl and his five Norwegian friends were proposing was beyond audacious -- it was foolhardy, by any standard. Here were six young men, none with sailing experience, who were building their own Inca-style raft out of balsa logs and hemp ropes and planning to sail it across thousands of miles of ocean from Peru to the South Seas.

Surely, they would die.

Of course, they didn't. For over 100 days, the Kon-Tiki bobbed along like a cork in high and low seas making slow but steady progress before eventually landing the men on an island in French Polynesia. In doing so, Heyerdahl, an anthropologist, had made his case that it was possible that the South Sea islands had been populated by immigrants floating on rafts from South America.

It was a remarkable accomplishment, and while it is a tale imperfectly told, "Kon-Tiki" is quite worth reading.

This is a book where the events carry the writing. For the most part, Heyerdahl does an able job of presenting the story, but he curiously skips over some parts. For instance, he doesn't explain clearly why he allowed the voyage to begin by having the Kon-Tiki towed out of port and many miles out to sea. After all, wasn't the point of the expedition to show that the raft could make it all the way on its own? (There may have been a good reason -- perhaps to avoid shipping traffic -- but he doesn't say what it is.)

Because the trip actually turned out to be easier than expected, the middle section becomes somewhat flat. The crew had plenty of fish to eat, and collected rain water to drink. They found ways to make the craft easy to steer.

Also, while Heyerdahl is detailed in his descriptions of the fish they saw while crossing the ocean, he fails to illuminate the personalities of his five crewmates. Even by the end of the book, they remained indistiguishable in my mind.

These are weaknesses, yes, but hardly fatal ones, and the overall boldness of this adventure is what carries this book. There are exciting moments -- when one of the men falls overboard and is nearly lost, and when the Kon-Tiki dramatically crashes into a reef at the end of its voyage. And the crew's short stay on an island inhabited by just 127 villagers is memorable for its idyllic picture of the South Seas lifestyle.
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on September 30, 1999
The voyage of the Kon-Tiki ranks as one of the great adventures of our
era. But was Heyerdahl's journey that of a "lucky
adventurer" whose theories could be justly dismissed as
"junk science" by the archaeological establishment? Or did
his knowledge that the seas were virtual conveyor belts unveil the
possibility that ancient peoples were not limited to migration over
land bridges but could more easily have voyaged in rafts over open
seas? Tom Dillehay's dating of the Monte Verde site in Chile to 12,500
years ago -- hundreds of years before the Mackenzie corridor opened
the remote possibility of Beringia (dry Bering Sea) migration -- seems
to have driven a stake into the theory that man first migrated by land
to the Americas. Now paleontologist Walter Neves has revealed that a
11,500-year-old skull from central Brazil ("Luzia") has the
round eyes, large nose and pronounced chin characteristic of
Australian aborigines and native Africans. Will Heyerdahl's theories
finally receive the attention in academic circles they have long
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on June 20, 2000
Although the middle part of this book drags (which is why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5), I was really satisfied when I finished reading this book. I was on vacation in Oslo and had visited the Kon-Tiki museum. I had never heard of Thor Heyerdahl before, but from what I saw at the museum, I was very fascinated and intrigued by the story of his trip across the Pacific on a balsa-wood raft. The week I came home I immediately started reading this book, and I was not disappointed. I was really fascinated by the accounts of interaction with sea animals, whales, sharks, dolphins, etc. that I immediately wanted to go sailing on a wide open sea in order to see all these exotic animals that Heyerdahl and his crew encountered. This book allows you to live vicariously and experience three months worth of sailing on a raft in the Pacific Ocean. This is a definite read for the sea lovers and travelers out there in the world who yearn for adventure.
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on April 19, 2002
As a youngster, I watched the documentary of this amazing story and was immediately hooked on it. A few years later, I read the book and was enthralled. Dr. Heyerdahl's ultimate 'field study' to prove that ancient peoples could cross vast stretches of ocean held my attention from beginning to end; I read the entire book in just a couple of days. Heyerdahl's other works such as "Fatu-Hiva," and "Aku-Aku" are also rousing stories of his real-life exploits. However, it is "Kon-Tiki" which retains the best spirit of adventure and human endeavor, and thus remains my personal favorite.
As the above title states, there is a sad note to include in this review: I learned yesterday (4/18/02) that Dr. Heyerdahl died of a brain tumor at age 87. May he rest in peace.
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