The Online Library of Knowledge


Kon-Tiki expedition

Christening ceremony for the Kon-TikiChristening 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-TikiA photo of the Kon-Tiki
Floating balsa wood logs downstreamFloating 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.

Inside the cabinInside the cabin

Setting sail

On 28th April 1947, a tug towed the Kon-Tiki 80 kilometres (50 miles) out to sea, before letting it go. The crew consisted of five Norwegians and one Swede. None of them was an experienced sailor. As well as Heyerdahl, there was Danielsson, Haugland, Hesselberg, Raaby and Watzinger.
Kon-Tiki weathers a storm.Kon-Tiki weathers a storm.

The first few nights at sea were very difficult, owing to bad weather. One crew member, Knut Haugland, had terrible seasickness. 
The men sheltered from the storm inside their bamboo cabin. Luckily, they had their pet parrot to keep them company. 


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

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile