This Day in Tech History

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kon-tiki2

August 7, 1947:  Wood Raft Makes 4,300 Mile Voyage

On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti.  Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents.

Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl with a model of the balsa raft “Kon-Tiki”

Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl with a model of the balsa raft “Kon-Tiki”

As King Thor after his arrival at Raroia

As King Thor after his arrival at Raroia

Heyerdahl and his five-person crew set sail from Callao, Peru, on the 40-square-foot Kon-Tiki on April 28, 1947.  The Kon-Tiki, named for a mythical white chieftain, was made of indigenous materials and designed to resemble rafts of early South American Indians.  While crossing the Pacific, the sailors encountered storms, sharks and whales, before finally washing ashore at Raroia.

The six men who made up the crew were: Thor Heyerdahl, leader of the expedition; Herman Watzinger, in charge of meteorological and technical research; Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby, both wireless operators, who maintained contact with radio amateurs; Erik Hesselberg, navigator, who plotted the drift of the raft; and the Swedish sociologist Bengt Danielson, who acted as steward.

The six men who made up the crew were: Thor Heyerdahl, leader of the expedition; Herman Watzinger, in charge of meteorological and technical research; Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby, both wireless operators, who maintained contact with radio amateurs; Erik Hesselberg, navigator, who plotted the drift of the raft; and the Swedish sociologist Bengt Danielson, who acted as steward.

Kon-Tiki_16

The Crew takes on a different look after being at sea

Heyerdahl, born in Larvik, Norway, on October 6, 1914, believed that Polynesia’s earliest inhabitants had come from South America, a theory that conflicted with popular scholarly opinion that the original settlers arrived from Asia.  Even after his successful voyage, anthropologists and historians continued to discredit Heyerdahl’s belief. However, his journey captivated the public and he wrote a book about the experience:

The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas,

…that became an international bestseller and was translated into 65 languages. Heyerdahl also produced a documentary about the trip that won an Academy Award in 1951.

Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl

Official Trailer of – Kon-Tiki

New research indicates Polynesian ancestors settled in Samoa around 800 BC, colonized the central Society Islands between AD 1025 and 1120 and dispersed to New Zealand, Hawaiʻi and Rapa Nui and other locations between AD 1190 and 1290.

Most historians consider that the Polynesians from the west were the original inhabitants and that the story of the Hanau epe is either pure myth, or a memory of internal tribal or class conflicts.  However, in 2011 Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo presented DNA evidence to the Royal Society which whilst agreeing with the west origin also identified a distinctive but smaller genetic contribution from South America.

Photos From the Voyage

ThorHeyerdahl-KonTiki kontiki_overlevet  kt8  kon-tiki_25 kon-tiki_24 Kon-Tiki_17 imagesCAY7VUFV Kon-Tiki kon-tiki_15

Thor-Heyerdahl-s_01  KonTiki_620_091847_620x350

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