Kon-Tiki was the raft used by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands. 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 Heyerdahl's book, the dramatised feature film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Academy Award-winning documentary film chronicling his adventures.
Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times, although most anthropologists now believe they did not. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. Although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, Heyerdahl argued they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey.
The Kon-Tiki expedition was funded by private loans, along with donations of equipment from the United States Army. Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where, with the help of dockyard facilities provided by the Peruvian authorities, they constructed the raft out of balsa logs and other native materials in an indigenous style as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. The trip began on April 28, 1947. Heyerdahl and five companions sailed the raft for 101 days over 6900 km (4,300 miles) across the Pacific Ocean before smashing into a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. The crew made successful landfall and all returned safely.
Thor Heyerdahl's book about his experience became a bestseller. It was published in 1948 as The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas, later reprinted as Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft. A documentary motion picture about the expedition, also called Kon-Tiki was produced from a write-up and expansion of the crew's filmstrip notes and won an Academy Award in 1951. It was directed by Thor Heyerdahl and edited by Olle Nordemar. The voyage was also chronicled in the documentary TV-series The Kon-Tiki Man: The Life and Adventures of Thor Heyerdahl, directed by Bengt Jonson.
Kon-Tiki had six men on its crew, and a pet parrot named Lorita. Crew members included Thor Heyerdahl, Erik Hesselberg, Bengt Danielsson, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby, and Herman Watzinger. All were Norwegian except for Bengt Danielsson, a Swede. Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002) was the expedition leader. He was also the author of the book and the narrator of the story. Heyerdahl had studied the ancient people of South America and Polynesia and believed that there was a link between the two. Erik Hesselberg (1914–1972) was the navigator and artist. He painted the large Kon-Tiki figure on the raft's sail. His delightful children's book Kon-Tiki and I appeared in Norwegian in 1949 and has since been published in more than 15 languages. Bengt Danielsson (1921–1997) took on the role of steward, in charge of supplies and daily rations. Danielsson was a Swedish sociologist interested in human migration theory. He also served as translator, as he was the only member of the crew who spoke Spanish. He was also a voracious reader; his box aboard the raft contained many books. Knut Haugland (1917–2009) was a radio expert, decorated by the British in World War II for actions in the Norwegian heavy water sabotage that stalled what were believed to be Germany's plans to develop an atomic bomb. Torstein Raaby (1918–1964) was also in charge of radio transmissions. He gained radio experience while hiding behind German lines during WWII, spying on the German battleship Tirpitz. His secret radio transmissions eventually helped guide in Allied bombers to sink the ship. Herman Watzinger (1910–1986) was an engineer whose area of expertise was in technical measurements. He was the first to join Heyerdahl for the trip. He collected and recorded all sorts of data on the voyage. Much of what he recorded, such as weather data, was sent back to various people, since this area of the ocean was largely unstudied.
The last living crew member, Knut Haugland, died on Christmas Day, 2009 at the age of 92.
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The main body of the float was composed of nine balsa tree trunks up to 45 ft long, 2 ft in diameter, lashed together with 1¼ inch hemp ropes. Cross-pieces of balsa logs 18 ft long and1 ft in diameter were lashed across the logs at 3 ft intervals to give lateral support. Pine splashboards clad the bow, and lengths of pine 1 inch thick and 2 ft wide were wedged between the balsa logs and used as centerboards.
The main mast was made of lengths of mangrove wood lashed together to form an A-frame 29 ft high. Behind the main-mast was a cabin of plaited bamboo 14 ft long and 8 ft wide was built about 4–5 ft high, and roofed with banana leaf thatch. At the stern was a 19 ft long steering oar of mangrove wood, with a blade of fir. The main sail was 15 by 18 ft on a yard of bamboo stems lashed together. Photographs also show a top-sail above the main sail, and also a mizzen-sail, mounted at the stern.
The raft was partially decked in split bamboo. The main spars were a laminate of wood and reeds and Heyerdahl tested more than twenty different composites before settling on one that proved an effective compromise between bulk and torsional rigidity. No metal was used in the construction.
Kon-Tiki carried 275 gallons of drinking water in 56 water cans, as well as a number of sealed bamboo rods. The purpose stated by Heyerdahl for carrying modern and ancient containers was to test the effectiveness of ancient water storage. For food Kon-Tiki carried 200 coconuts, sweet potatoes, bottle gourds and other assorted fruit and roots. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps provided field rations, tinned food and survival equipment. In return, the Kon-Tiki explorers reported on the quality and utility of the provisions. They also caught plentiful numbers of fish, particularly flying fish, "dolphin fish", yellowfin tuna, bonito and shark.
The expedition carried an amateur radio station with the call sign of LI2B operated by former World War II Norwegian underground radio operators Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby. Haugland and Raaby maintained regular communication with a number of American, Canadian, and South American stations that relayed Kon Tiki's status to the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. On August 5, Haugland made contact with a station in Oslo, Norway, 10,000 miles away. Kon Tiki's transmitters were powered by batteries and a hand-cranked generator and operated on the 40-, the 20-meter band, the 10-meter band, and the 6-meter band. Each unit was water resistant and included 2E30 vacuum tubes providing 10 watts of RF input. A German Mark V transceiver was used as a backup unit.
The radio receiver used throughout the voyage was a National Radio Company NC-173, once requiring a thorough drying out after being soaked during a shipwreck. An "all well, all well" message was sent via LI2B to notify would-be rescuers of the crew's safety.
The call sign LI2B was used by Heyerdahl again in 1969–70, when he built a papyrus reed raft and sailed from Morocco to Barbados in an attempt to show a possible link between the civilization of ancient Egypt and the New World.
The voyage 
Kon-Tiki left Callao, Peru, on the afternoon of April 28, 1947. To avoid coastal traffic it was initially towed 50 miles out by the Fleet Tug Guardian Rios of the Peruvian Navy, then sailed roughly west carried along on the Humboldt Current.
The crew's first sight of land was the atoll of Puka-Puka on July 30. On August 4, the 97th day after departure, Kon-Tiki reached the Angatau atoll. The crew made brief contact with the inhabitants of Angatau Island, but were unable to land safely. Calculations made by Heyerdahl before the trip had indicated that 97 days was the minimum amount of time required to reach the Tuamotu islands, so that the encounter with Angatau showed that they had made good time.
On August 7, the voyage came to an end when the raft struck a reef and was eventually beached on an uninhabited islet off Raroia atoll in the Tuamotu group. The team had travelled a distance of around 3,770 nautical miles (c. 6,980 km (4,340 mi)) in 101 days, at an average speed of 1.5 knots.
After spending a number of days alone on the tiny islet, the crew were greeted by men from a village on a nearby island who arrived in canoes, having seen washed-up flotsam from the raft. The crew were taken back to the native village, where they were feted with traditional dances and other festivities. Finally the crew were taken off Raroia to Tahiti by the French schooner Tamara, with the salvaged Kon-Tiki in tow.
Heyerdahl believed that the original inhabitants of Easter Island were the migrants from Peru. He argued that the monumental statues known as moai resembled sculptures more typical of pre-Columbian Peru than any Polynesian designs. He believed that the Easter Island myth of a power struggle between two peoples called the Hanau epe and Hanau momoko was a memory of conflicts between the original inhabitants of the island and a later wave of Native Americans from the Northwest coast, eventually leading to the annihilation of the Hanau epe and the destruction of the island's culture and once-prosperous economy.
Most historians consider that the Polynesians from the west were the original inhabitants and that the story of the Hanau epe is either pure myth, or a memory of internal tribal or class conflicts. However, in 2011 Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo presented DNA evidence to the Royal Society which whilst agreeing with the west origin also identified a distinctive but smaller genetic contribution from South America.
Later recreations of Kon-Tiki 
In 1954 William Willis sailed alone on a raft from Peru to American Samoa, successfully completing the journey. He sailed 6,700 miles, which was 2,200 miles farther than Kon-Tiki. In the following year the Czech explorer and adventurer Eduard Ingris attempted to recreate the Kon-Tiki expedition on a balsa raft called Kantuta. His first expedition, Kantuta I, took place in 1955-1956 and led to failure. In 1959 Ingris built a new balsa raft, Kantuta II, and tried to repeat the previous expedition. The second expedition was a success. Ingris was able to cross the Pacific Ocean on the balsa raft from Peru to Polynesia.
The 1973 Las Balsas expedition was the first (and so far only) multiple-raft crossing of the Pacific Ocean in recent history. It is the longest-known raft voyage in history. The expedition was led by Spaniard Vital Alsar who, in 1970, led the La Balsa expedition, only on that occasion with one raft and three companions. The crossing was successful and, at the time, the longest raft voyage in history, until eclipsed in 1973 by Las Balsas. The purpose of the 1973 expedition was three-fold: (1) to prove that the success of 1970 was no accident, (2) to test different currents in the sea, which Alsar maintained ancient mariners knew as modern humans know road maps, and (3) to show that the original expeditions, directed perhaps toward trade or colonisation, may have consisted of small fleets of balsa rafts.
On April 28, 2006, a Norwegian team attempted to duplicate the Kon-Tiki voyage using a newly built raft, the Tangaroa, named after the Māori sea-god Tangaroa. Again based on records of ancient vessels, this raft used a relatively sophisticated square sail that allowed sailing into the wind, or tacking. It was 16 m (52 ft) high by 8 m (26 ft) wide. The raft also included a set of modern navigation and communication equipment, including solar panels, portable computers, and desalination equipment. The crew posted to their website.
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A DVD documentary: "The Tangaroa Expedition" (Ekspedisionen Tangaroa) was produced by Videomaker (Norwegian), 2007, shot by photographers Anders Berg and Jenssen, and lasting 58 minutes (English, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish).
On January 30, 2011, An-Tiki, a raft modeled after Kon-Tiki, began a 3,000 mile, 70-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. The expedition was piloted by four men, aged from 56 to 84 years, led by Anthony Smith. The trip was designed to commemorate the journey in an open boat of survivors from the British steamship Anglo-Saxon, sunk by the German cruiser Widder in 1940. The raft ended its voyage in the Caribbean island of St Maarten, completing its trip to Eleuthera in the following year with Smith and a new crew.
See also 
- Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Crawley: University of Western Australia Publishing, p. 46.
- Andrew Lawler. "Andrew Lawler, Beyond Kon-Tiki: Did Polynesians Sail to South America, Journal Science Vol. 328 no. 5984 pp. 1344–1347 11 June 2010". Sciencemag.org. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- Andrew Lawler (2010-06-11). "Andrew Lawler, Changing Time in the South Pacific, Journal Science Vol. 328 no. 5984 p. 1346 11 June 2010". Sciencemag.org. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- The Kon-Tiki Man episode breakdown[dead link]
- Thor Heyerdahl, Thor (1968). The Kon-Tiki Expedition. Rand McNally. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
- Heyerdahl, Thor (1984). Kon-Tiki: across the Pacific by raft. Rand McNally. p. 63. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
- Anonymous (December 1947). "Kon-Tiki Communications – Well Done!". QST (The American Radio Relay League): 69, 143–148.
- An LA, as in Norway, Story, by Bob Merriam, W1NTE, March 5, 2003
- Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame dies at 87, April 24, 2002
- "Boatanchor Pix, National NC-173". Oak.cats.ohiou.edu. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame dies at 87 April 24, 2002,
- Thor Heyerdahl (1971). The Ra Expeditions (English ed.). New York: Doubleday and Company. p. 270.
- Heyerdahl, Thor (1984). Kon-Tiki: across the Pacific by raft. Rand McNally. p. 98. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
- Heyderdahl, Thor. Easter Island – The Mystery Solved. Random House New York 1989.
- Robert C. Suggs, "Kon-Tiki", in Rosemary G. Gillespie, D. A. Clague (eds), Encyclopedia of Islands, University of California Press, 2009, pp. 515–16.
- William R. Long, "Does 'Rapa Nui' Take Artistic License Too Far?",Los Angeles Times, Friday August 26, 1994, p. 21.
- John Flenley, Paul G. Bahn, The Enigmas of Easter Island: Island on the Edge, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 76, 154.
- Steven R. Fischer, Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island, Reaktion Books, 2005, p. 42.
- Richard Alleyne (17 Jun 2011). "Kon-Tiki explorer was partly right – Polynesians had South American roots". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 Jun 2011.
- Willis, William (1955). The Epic Voyage of the Seven Little Sisters: A 6700 Mile Voyage Alone Across the Pacific. London: Hutchinson
- Equipment on the Tangaroa included GPS (Global Positioning System), F-77 satellite antenna, AUS (Automatic Identification System), six solar panels to generate electricity, wind generators, desalination equipment, telephone, internet, 3 MAC iBook computers, DVD player and an iPod. Azerbaijan International, Vol. 14:4 (Winter 2006), p. 35
- "www.tangaroa.no". www.tangaroa.no. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- "The Eleutheran – Eleuthera News, Sport and much more from Eleuthera – The tale of An-Tiki – One raft, four ‘mature’ adventurers and a very big ocean!". Eleutheranews.com. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- "The Eleutheran – Eleuthera News, Sport and much more from Eleuthera – The An-Tiki Dream Turns into Reality". Eleutheranews.com. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- Anthony Smith, "Voyage to the Brink of Death", The Daily Telegraph, 06 May 2012
- Balsa Tangaroa Raft. Retrieved 27 April 2013
- Heyerdahl, Thor (1950). Kon-Tiki. Rand McNally & Company. At Internet Archive.
- Hesselberg, Erik (1950). Kon-Tiki and I : illustrations with text, begun on the Pacific on board the raft "Kon-Tiki" and completed at "Solbakken" in Borre. Allen & Unwin
- Andersson, Axel (2010) A Hero for the Atomic Age: Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki Expedition (Peter Lang) ISBN 978-1-906165-31-4
- Kon-Tiki Museum
- National NC-173 receiver
- Quick Facts: Comparing the Two Rafts: Kon-Tiki and Tangaroa Azerbaijan International, Vol 14:4 (Winter 2006)
- Testing Heyerdahl's Theories about Kon-Tiki 60 Years Later: Tangaroa Pacific Voyage (Summer 2006) Azerbaijan International, Vol 14:4 (Winter 2006)
- Kon-Tiki in Reverse: The Tahiti-Nui Expedition
- TV2Sumo WebTV programme "Ekspedisjonen Tangaroa" (Tangaroa Expedition) – Norsk
- Acali 1973 – expedition by raft across Atlantic Librarything, 2007
- Hsu-Fu 1993 – bamboo raft across Pacific (west to east) personal.psu.edu