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Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft (original 1950; edition 1990)

by Thor Heyerdahl

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2,235272,875 (4.02)68
Member:jjmcgaffey
Title:Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft
Authors:Thor Heyerdahl
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Collections:Your library, Read, Discard, Cover maybe done
Rating:****
Tags:Science, Travel, Travel:Sea, TrueStory, !dunno

Work details

Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft by Thor Heyerdahl (1950)

  1. 20
    Fatu-Hiva: Back to Nature by Thor Heyerdahl (VivienneR)
  2. 00
    American Indians in the Pacific: The Theory behind the Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: This massive volume is the closest to scientific study Heyerdahl ever came. The theory behind the Kont-Tiki expedition is much more substantial and better argued than many people give him credit for.
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English (23)  Hungarian (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
While his theory of Polynesia being settled from South America turned out not to be true, that hardly takes away from a rip-roaring great tale of adventure. I was on the edge of my seat most of the time.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
This book was very adventurous and an exciting story at times, though not throughout the whole thing. 3Q3P The cover art is ok and I'd recommend this for high school students and adults. I chose this book because I heard about the story before and it seemed exciting. AutumnM
  edspicer | Jun 16, 2014 |
Kon-Tiki starts with an idea, that happened during Heyerdahl's stay on a South Seas island where he is researching his interesting thesis: could Polynesia have been colonized by trans-Pacific emigres from the pre-Colombian cultures of South America?
Even after recieving information Heyerdahl isn't satisfied with deciding "yes" he feels he must test the theory! Next, Heyerdahl marshals five friends of heroic spirit, acquires 9 humongous 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 are caught and jump upon 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 trouble is very slim.
Heyerdahl's hard work and dedication are shown in every word. His love of the ocean combined with his love for science make it an interesting read even if it is not your type of book.

I believe everyone should read this book, even if you aren't that fond of the adventurous 1930's. This was a tough read for me because of the strange language, so some words were hard to understand. Of what I did understand, I definitely enjoyed. ( )
1 vote br14elmo | Nov 8, 2013 |
Not only is this a remarkable story in every way, but Heyerdahl is a wonderful writer. This could have been a dry tale, based on historical research and navigational theory. but Heyerdhal's sense of humor and true wonder at the whole experience carry through in the telling of the story. From the time that the notion first occurred to him that the islands of Polynesia or first peopled by "immigrants" from Peru, through his frustrating efforts to have his theory taken seriously, to funding, outfitting, and actually building the replicated balsa wood raft, christened Kon Tiki, all the way across the Pacific ocean to their near disastrous landing three months later on the island of Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands, Heyerdahl tells the story with enough detail to keep the reader engaged and enough humor to move the story along. I read this book for the first time about 40 years ago, and when I saw a preview for the soon to be released movie, I went back and reread the book. It's held up very well. A quick read, and thoroughly enjoyable to anybody who enjoys adventure stories or seafaring stories. ( )
1 vote zenhead | Jun 23, 2013 |
This is the first person account of Thor Heyerdahl of his 1947 voyage with five companions across the South Pacific; over 4,000 nautical miles in 101 days with five companions on a balsa log raft. There are various genres this book could be said to fall into: anthropology, adventure/exploration and memoir, and I have mixed feelings about its success in each.

The entire purpose of the voyage was "to support a theory that the South Sea Islands were populated from Peru." Heyerdahl did have some compelling points for his theory. Given his expeditions sailing in craft of ancient design, Heyerdahl has good reason to claim that the ocean is "a conveyer, not an isolator." (Although in that case one must ask why Old and New Worlds lost contact for centuries.) Right in the front matter is a map showing the Humboldt currents and trade winds--going west, not east, making it seem plausible the islands were peopled from the Americas rather than Asia. And the sweet potato, which comes from South America, is a Polynesian staple. Nevertheless, Heyerdahl couldn't even get a legitimate scholar to look at his manuscript, because the Incas didn't have boats--only rafts which were believed unseaworthy. So Heyerdahl decided to have constructed a craft made of the same design and materials as pre-Columbian Peruvians and sail it from Peru across the Pacific to one of the South Sea Islands to prove it could be done, so his theory could be taken seriously. From what I can gather, despite the success of his voyage, this is considered by anthropologists today to be at best a fringe theory, if not downright crackpot. Worse is Heyerdahl's fixation that every "high" aspect of pre-Columbian New World came from "legendary white people" who voyaged to the New World, presumably from Europe, and created Aztec, Inca and Polynesian civilization and then were displaced by later Amerindian settlers. So as anthropology, although there's not much discussion of it, for me the book fails pretty resoundingly. Especially when you consider his craft had to be towed out of harbor, didn't land so much as wreck itself on a South Sea Island reef, and that, as Heyerdahl admits, it was sheer luck they used just cut balsa wood which still had enough sap to keep the craft afloat. Had they used dried logs as planned, they would have floundered.

And then there's the memoir/adventure tale aspect, which I consider a qualified success. Qualified because note the above part about luck--and admittedly guts. But I'm somewhat a fan of tales of exploration and I couldn't help compare Heyerdahl to his compatriot Roald Amundsen, the polar explorer. Amundsen famously said that "adventure is just bad planning." He won that race to the South Pole because of rational and efficient planning, preparedness, experience and skill--little of which seemed evident in Heyerdahl. Reading of how Heyerdahl prepared and planned for the Kon-Tiki expedition on the other hand, it's hard for me to understand how he didn't wind up with a Darwin Award. Several maritime experts told him the Kon Tiki was unseaworthy, just as anthropologists had told him his migration theories were unsound--he launched anyway. And as memoir, if you're expecting to find much psychological insight into what he and his five companions went through on a raft for nearly four months, you're going to be disappointed.

Ah, but there are some redeeming qualities to reading this--namely as a tale of the sea. It was often (although perhaps not often enough) fascinating to read about the marine life they came across, the storms and dangers they faced. An encounter with a whale shark was particularly memorable--as was just the abundance of food available to them living off the sea in that raft. They had enough flying fish jumping into the raft to make fishing superfluous the way Heyerdahl told it. Crab, squid, even plankton around them could make a tasty meal, although their favorite was the Bonito fish. So it's as an account of nature and the sea that this tale makes up points for me, even if I look at the theories that inspired this voyage with a jaundiced eye. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Apr 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thor Heyerdahlprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lyon, Francis HamiltonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Just occasionally you find yourself in an odd situation.
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No storm-clouds with low pressure and dirty weather held greater menace for us then the danger of psychological cloudburst among six men shut up together for months on a drifting raft. In such circumstances a good joke was often as valuable as a life-belt.
There were swarms of journalists and a clicking of cinema cameras; indeed, the only things that were lacking were a brass band and a big drum. One thing was quite clear to us all - that if the raft went to pieces outside the bay we would paddle to Polynesia, each of us on a log, rather than dare come back there again.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671726528, Mass Market Paperback)

Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure -- a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage.

On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. After three months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, whales, and sharks, they sighted land -- the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.

Translated into sixty-five languages, Kon-Tiki is a classic, inspiring tale of daring and courage -- a magnificent saga of men against the sea.

Washington Square Press' Enriched Classics present the great works of world literature enhanced for the contemporary reader. This edition of Kon-Tiki has been prepared by an editorial committee headed by Harry Shefter, professor of English at New York University. It includes a foreword by the author, a selection of critical excerpts, notes, an index, and a unique visual essay of the voyage.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure -- a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage. On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. After three months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, whales, and sharks, they sighted land -- the Polynesian island of Puka Puka. Translated into sixty-five languages, Kon-Tiki is a classic, inspiring tale of daring and courage -- a magnificent saga of men against the sea.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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