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Kon-Tiki

From Academic Kids

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KonTiki.jpg
The Kon-Tiki raft is shown on the cover of the DVD of the documentary.

Kon-Tiki was the name given to a raft by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition. It was named after the Inca sun god, Viracocha, for whom "Kon-Tiki" was said to be an old name. Kon-Tiki is also the name of the popular book which Heyerdahl wrote about his adventures.

Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in the south Pacific in Pre-Columbian times. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to them at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so.

Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where they used trees and other native materials to construct a balsawood raft said to be of native style. Accompanied by five companions, Heyerdahl sailed it for 101 days over 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean before smashing into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. They had modern equipment such as radio and military expedition food, but found they could live off the fruits of the ocean, as the raft attracted lots of marine life.

The medium-length book Kon-Tiki was a best-seller, and a documentary motion picture of the expedition won an Academy Award in 1952.

A replica of Kon-Tiki is now on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.

Contents

Crew

The Kon-Tiki was crewed by six men, all Norwegian except for Bengt Danielsson, who was from Sweden.

  • Thor Heyerdahl was the expedition leader.
  • Erik Hesselberg was the navigator and artist. He painted the large Kon-Tiki figure on the raft's sail.
  • Bengt Danielsson took on the role of steward, in charge of supplies and daily rations. Danielsson was a sociologist interested in human migration theory. He also served as translator, as he was the only member of the crew who spoke Spanish.
  • Torstein Raaby was also in charge of radio transmissions. He gained radio experience while hiding behid German lines during WWII, spying on the battleship Tirpitz. His secret radio transmissions eventually helped guide in British bombers to sink the ship.
  • Herman Watzinger was an engineer whose area of expertise was in technical measurements. He recorded meteorological and hydrographical data while underway.

Anthropology

While this was an interesting experiment that demonstrated the seaworthiness of Heyerdahl's raft, his theory of the Polynesians' origins is now widely discounted by anthropologists. Physical and cultural evidence had long suggested that Polynesia was settled from west to east, migration having begun from the Asian mainland, not South America. In the late 1990s, genetic testing found that the mitochondrial DNA of the Polynesians is more similar to people from southeast Asia than to people from South America, showing that their ancestors most likely came from Asia. The Kon-Tiki adventure is often cited as a classic of pseudoarchaeology, although its daring and inventive nature is still widely acclaimed.

However, it should be noted that Thor Heyerdahl never set out to prove that the current Polynesians were descended from South America. According to some Polynesian legends, Polynesia was originally inhabited by two peoples, the so-called long-eared and the short-eared. In a bloody war, all the long-eared peoples were eliminated and the short-eared people assumed sole control of Polynesia. Heyerdahl asserted that these extinct people were the ones who could have settled Polynesia from the Americas, not the current, short-eared inhabitants.

Popular culture

It was parodied in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures called, not surprisingly, Kon-Ducki. It featured Plucky Duck as Pluck Heyerdahl, Hampton J. Pig as his assistant Koom-bye-ah, and Sweetie Pie. Pluck attempts to prove that he is able to, like his ancestors from the 1970s, sail on a raft apparently filled with ABBA 8-Tracks and Screaming Yellow Zonkers and make it to Salinas.

External links

References

  • Heyerdahl, Thor (1950). Kon-Tiki. Rand McNally & Company.sv:Kon-Tiki

he:קון טיקי fr:Kon-Tiki de:Kon-Tiki lt:Kon Tikis

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