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Kon-Tiki expedition

Christening ceremony for the Kon-Tiki For years, experts had believed that the inhabitants of the Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific Ocean had originally come from Asia. But Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl noticed that some ancient statues on a Polynesian island were very similar to some he had seen in Bolivia, South America. Heyerdahl began to think that the Polynesians had actually originated in South America, not Asia. In order to test his theory, he had to prove that people could have sailed from Peru to the Pacific Islands on their simple wooden rafts. So he and five other men set sail in such a raft, the Kon-Tiki, in 1947. The voyage was a great success, but scientists now have convincing evidence that the Polynesians did in fact originate in Southeast Asia, not South America.


A photo of the Kon-Tiki
Floating balsa wood logs downstream

Building the raft

Heyerdahl built a raft according to ancient methods. The vessel was constructed at Callao in Peru, using balsa wood logs from the jungle in Ecuador. The raft was named Kon-Tiki after the Peruvian sun god.

Thor Heyerdahl was a poor swimmer and was actually scared of water, after twice nearly drowning as a child.

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