Thor Heyerdahl and the Voyage of the Kon-Tiki

By | February 12, 2019

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Thor Heyerdahl aboard the Kon-Tiki (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

In 1778, Captain James Cook, who had been sailing from island to island in the South Pacific, turned north and crossed the equator where he stumbled upon the previously unknown Hawaiian islands. He was shocked to see that the Tahitian priest who accompanied him could easily converse with the Hawaiians. Cook wondered how a single culture of people could spread across the great Pacific Ocean. In fact, this question was highly debated for the next two centuries until a Norwegian explorer, naturalist, and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, sailed a replica of an ancient Polynesian canoe from South American to Tahiti in 1947, demonstrating that the spread of the Polynesian people happened from east to west, not vice versa. Let’s look at the incredible life of Thor Heyerdahl. 

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Thor Heyerdahl. Source: (

The Norwegian-born Heyerdahl was Interested in the Natural World

Thor Heyerdahl credited his mother, a strong believer in Darwin’s ideas about evolution and natural selection, with inspiring his own interest in biology, zoology, anthropology, and geography. In 1937, after completing his studies at the University of Oslo, he did field research in the remote Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific on the plant and animal life there, but Heyerdahl also became interested in the ancient people and culture of the islands.