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Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002)

Author of Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft

56+ Works 7,366 Members 106 Reviews 9 Favorited

About the Author

"This is an enthralling book," Hamilton Lasso wrote in The New Yorker of Kon-Tiki (1948), "and I don't think I can be very far off in calling it the most absorbing sea tale of our time." Heyerdahl, a Norwegian ethnologist, conceived the theory---not then accepted by other scientists---that show more Polynesia may have been originally settled by people who crossed the 4,100 miles of ocean from Peru in rafts made of balsa logs. Kon-Tiki is the story of how he and five others built the raft, as people of the Stone Age could build it, and traveled in it from Peru to a small island east of Tahiti---a "most fascinating description of intelligent courage." Heyerdahl believes that he has at last solved the problem of how natives raised the great statues on Easter Island and has written a most absorbing account of it in Aku-Aku (1958). He has adduced further corroboration of his theory from the findings in The Archaeology of Easter Island (1961). In the spring of 1969, Heyerdahl was engaged in a new experiment---planning to cross the Atlantic from Morocco to Yucatan in a 12-ton papyrus boat that he and others built themselves in the manner of the ancient Egyptians. In spite of general skepticism as to whether the boat, called the Ra, could make the journey without sinking when it became thoroughly water-soaked, Heyerdahl and six others set out in full confidence. They hoped to demonstrate that Egyptians might have made the journey in this manner 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and thus were the precursors of the Incas and Mayas. In July 1969, however, they were forced to abandon their attempt 600 miles short of their goal, near the Virgin Islands, after a series of storms had crippled the Ra. They left it drifting in the hope that it might reach Barbados on its own. Their second attempt, in Ra II, was successful. A subsequent journey in the reed-ship Tigris in 1977--78 was meant to show that such craft could maneuver against the wind and thus complete round-trip journeys through the ancient world via the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Political conflicts in the region, however, led Heyerdahl and his crew to burn the Tigris in protest. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: L'explorateur norvégien Thor Heyerdahl vers 1980

Works by Thor Heyerdahl

Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island (1957) — Author — 1,017 copies
The Ra Expeditions (1970) 731 copies
Fatu-Hiva: Back to Nature (1974) 465 copies
The Maldive Mystery (1986) 119 copies
The art of Easter Island (1975) — Author — 30 copies
Sea Routes to Polynesia (1968) 24 copies
The Quest for America (1971) 14 copies
Ingen grenser (1999) 8 copies
Selected from Kon-Tiki (1993) 7 copies
Das große Heyerdahl-Buch (1980) 2 copies
Kon-Tiki [motion picture] (2002) 2 copies
Ve znamení Kon-Tiki (1951) 1 copy
Kon~Tiki, Ra, Aku~Aku (1972) 1 copy
Oppdageren 1 copy
Hablan los vencidos (1996) 1 copy

Associated Works


20th century (41) adventure (424) anthropology (308) archaeology (190) autobiography (57) biography (109) Easter Island (150) expedition (33) expeditions (29) exploration (312) explorers (44) fiction (51) geography (117) hardcover (38) Heyerdahl (26) history (449) Kon-Tiki (26) maritime (60) memoir (97) nautical (34) non-fiction (538) Norway (29) Norwegian (32) ocean (31) Oceania (24) Pacific (114) Pacific Ocean (103) Peru (49) Polynesia (119) read (37) sailing (103) science (58) sea (54) seafaring (37) South America (30) Thor Heyerdahl (62) to-read (154) travel (540) travelogue (37) unread (36)

Common Knowledge



Guy who’s afraid of boats and can’t swim decides to prove that ancient settlers of Polynesian islands came from South America, and he does so by recreating the journey they may have made on the kind of craft they would have used. Impressive, but apparently the account of such a journey is not my jam. I just couldn’t get interested in it.
electrascaife | 53 other reviews | Jul 9, 2023 |
Testing a theory by making a trip, with adventures along the way, and context to explain why.
mykl-s | 53 other reviews | May 28, 2023 |
I just finished reading reading Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island by Thor Heyerdahl. This book must have sat on my parent's shelf since the early-to-mid 1960's. I had heard of Kon-Tiki, which they didn't have. Finally, curiosity got the better of my and I started reading it in late November. I really plunged into it late last month and finished it tonight. What a book!

This book is far outside what I normally read. Thor Heyerdahl admits, at the close of the book, that his theory about east-to-west Southern Hemisphere is not purely scientific. His reasoning is guided in part by by his own "Aku-Aku's" or, roughly translated, speculation or superstition. Spoiler alert; the term Aku-Aku, loosely translated, are good or evil spirits, what we would call in Yiddish "bubbe meise" or old-wives' tales. But it's more than that; there are definite parallels among the peoples and cultures of Inca South America, Easter Island (the subject of the book) and Polynesia that defy easy explanations.

Every one in a while every one should read this kind of book.
… (more)
JBGUSA | 14 other reviews | Jan 2, 2023 |
Great account of newlyweds who live for about a year on a Pacific island with some environmental and philosophical musings. Ancient Polynesians almost certainly mostly came from the Americas. Tiki is name for God in both places for one thing. The original time for the adventure was in the thirties, but the author rewrote the account in the seventies. Worth reading.
kslade | 11 other reviews | Dec 8, 2022 |



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