We usually don’t think of the Age of Exploration lasting into the mid-20th century, but one of the greatest, most interesting and inspiring expeditions in the history of mankind happened just 70 years ago!
In 1947 Norwegian adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, built a balsa wood raft and sailed it from Peru, across the Pacific Ocean, 65° around the Earth, to the tiny Polynesian atoll of Raroia just to prove a point to his buddies in the Explorer’s Club!
The point he was trying to prove? He had observed that indigenous people in South America and Polynesia had very similar idols and deities so he hypothesized that Polynesia could have been populated back in the day from South America instead of from southwest Asia.
The problem with his hypothesis was twofold – 1) everyone already knew that Polynesia was populated from Asia, and 2) everyone already knew that it was impossible for anyone to have have sailed a primitive raft constructed with indigenous materials and technology 7000 miles across the Pacific ocean.
The Explorers’ Club laughed him out of the city when he told them of his idea. So what did he do? He drummed up some financing, went to Peru, built a raft out of balsa logs and rope based on some ancient design he’d dug up, and set sail with some buddies!
Despite the fact that he was probably totally wrong about the origin of the Polynesians, he demonstrated that that route of migration was at least theoretically possible AND he learned a lot of really cool information about ancient South American navigation and Pacific ocean ecology. Heyerdahl’s crew members were the first known westerners to ever see a whale shark (which they had a really close encounter with!)
And all he had to do was ignore the nay-sayers and successfully carry out the most inspiring, most impossible expedition ever!
I HIGHLY recommend this outstanding true tale!