Sep 22, 2014

Kon-Tiki: 6 Guys on a Boat

Boys growing up in the 1960s were encouraged to read High Adventure, tales of exploration and conquest: Robert Peary's expedition to the North Pole; Roald Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole; Edmund Hilary's ascent of Mount Everest; Stanley Livingston's trek into Darkest Africa.  

All of this was somehow supposed to prepare us for a future confined to small square offices by day and small square houses by night.

The only tale of High Adventure that I actually liked was Kon-Tiki, about Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's quest to prove that Polynesia was settled by the early Incas -- or could have been.


So he and five companions built a raft of balsa wood, the only material available to the native peoples, and set out from Callao, Peru on April 28, 1947.  Four months and 4,000 miles later, they ran aground on Raroia, near Tahiti.  To international acclaim.

Who cares that contemporary anthropology disputed his theory?  He had been on a High Adventure.  Every boy I knew read the book, named his toy boat Kon-Tiki, and planned extravagant sailing adventures.  Mine started down the Mississippi, across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, and then followed the Gulf Stream to Europe.




I especially liked reading about six guys together on a small raft, their bodies nude and bronze in the sun, helping each other, rescuing each other, learning to care for each other.

Many more recent expeditions have attempted to recreate the journey, such as the Tangaroa in 2006, with Heyerdahl's grandson Olaf in the crew.




Naturally, the 2012 movie turns the journey into a hetero-romance.   But the original book either omits discussions of wives and children, or I skipped over that part. This was an all-male adventure, like Donald Duck and his nephews seeking out the Seven Cities of Cibola.

See also: Donald Duck's Double Life.