Kon-Tiki was the name given to the Sun God by the ancient Peruvians. Hence, it was an appropriate name for the expedition from the port of Callao,Peru, on April 28, 1947 on a raft designed to reassemble as closely as possible those used by the prehistoric inhabitants of Peru. It was constructed of logs of balsa wood and bamboo lashed together with rope.
The main purpose was to test the theory of its leader, Thor Heyerdahl, 32-year-old ethnologist, that the Pacific islands were originally settled by migrating peoples from prehistoric America.
Dr. Heyerdahl was accompanied by five Scandinavian scientists, among them Lieut. Kurt Haugland, formerly of Norway’s underground forces, who received the British Distinguished Service Order for his part in sabotaging the heavy-water plant at Rjukan in Norway during the war and took part in campaigns in Arctic Norway.
The voyage, which involved several encounters with sharks and at least two severe storms, reached the half-way mark of its journey of 4,000 miles on June 11, when it reported a position 108 degrees West, 6 degrees 20 minutes South.
The Kon-Tiki Raft party reported first sighting land- Pukapuka Island in the Tuamotas- on July 30. It drifted about 260 miles more before hitting Raroia Reef.
Heyerdahl, the leader of the Kon-Tiki Pacific Raft Expedition documented his arrival in Polynesia for the North American Newspaper Alliance.
(excerpt)After three days of trying to get around long, low Raroia Reef, a spot in the French Tuamotu Islands at about Latitude 16.30 South and 144.3 West- we finally were drawn right in among the coral rocks. As there was no choice left to us, we directed the raft right into the roaring twenty-five-foot waves that broke in the area. All men were ordered to cling to the basic nine logs that form the body of the raft
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. When 600 yards from shore, we grounded on a low, half submerged mass of coral. Giant breakers came in and threw us onto other rocks, each a little closer to shore.The balsa-wood raft was taking an awful beating. Our hut was smashed to bits, and our hardwood mast was carried away. The steering oar went, and the cross logs from the stern and the bow. But the main logs held together, and we all clung to them, hoping for a chance to leap from them to some protruding coral and make our way along them to shore. Finally our chance came. We jumped onto some sharply pointed coral, along which we made our way 500 yards to shore. We are still there, on a tiny uninhabited island. We have made several trips out to the marooned logs which constitute the remains of our raft, and have rescued most of our equipment. We also have our water and food supplies, and we are sleeping under the large Kin-Tiki sail- now stretched between two trees. We will try to get the remaining logs into some quiet lagoon near here, and possibly we will be able to find some natives who can help us salvage the remains. We are all in good condition and feel thankful that we have been able to save such things as food, water and an improvised radio.