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Thor Heyerdahl: a man, the sea and its challenge

From Norway to Liguria, crossing the world

Colla Micheri is a medieval town positioned in the hills between Laigueglia and Andora, along the course of the ancient Roman route Julia Augusta. In a dominant spot overlooking the sea there is a sixteenth century Saracen tower whose position and circular structure suggest a possible original use as a windmill; The tomb of Thor Heyerdahl is positioned under this as he chose to live here for more than 30 years because of its rare beauty, its  position and its climate.

This great Norwegian, took his degree in Biology in Oslo, becoming afterwards an anthropologist in the Pacific Isles, where, a forerunner of hippies, in 1937 he went to Fatu Hiva (Marchesi Islands) with his first wife Liv to live with her as a new “Adam and Eve” and where another Norwegian, Henry Lie, resident there for over thirty years, showed him some stone statues  similar to those found in Colombia; this event completely changed the course of his journey and his life as for the first time in his life he heard the legend of the Kon-Tiki, a name indissolubly tied to his international fame. In fact, despite his principal activities being those of archaeologist, anthropologist and explorer, Heyerdahl is known to most people for his intrepid adventure, carried out in 1947, of the 4,300 mile crossing from the shores of South America to the Tuamoto Isles which he carried out in fact with Kon-Tiki (the Sun God), the raft made of balsa wood and papyrus, in order to demonstrate that the Incas, and not only them, could have crossed the Ocean, reaching and colonizing Polynesia. An expedition minutely prepared in all details in order to use, wherever possible, all the methods and technologies available at that time: one of the most extraordinary voyages of the 20th century, a journey bound to make and become history! Co-protagonists of this adventure were Erik Hesselberg, navigator and artist, who painted the face of the god on the sail; Bengt Danielsson, Swedish, cook and storekeeper as well as a sociologist interested in human migrations; Knut Haugland and Tornstein Raaby both experts responsible for radio transmissions; Herman Watzinger, engineer in charge of measuring  technical, weather forecast and hydro-graphical data. For more than 40 years, the homonymal museum Kon-tiki, opened in May 1950, was directed by Knut Haugland, a member of the crew; it is today directed by Thor Heyerdahl jr. first born of the great chief of the Norwegian expedition.

After this first and much discussed venture, Heyerdahl continued his work with many more journeys and archaeological explorations between the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic one, the Galapagos, Easter Island, and finally, in Russia, to the sea of Azov, his last expedition, which was interrupted because his health conditions grew worse followed by  his death. He was an appreciated author of many books regarding his voyages and was also the director of the documentary Kon-Tiki, awarded with the prestigious Oscar Award in 1951. When  asked for advice on how to stay young, he answered: “Never give up!” .

1937-38: fatu hiva
1939: british columbia
1947: kon-tiki
1952: galapagos
1955-56: isola di pasqua
1969: ra
1970: raII
1977-78: tigri
1883-85: maldive
1986-88: isola di pasqua
1988-93 tucumè (perù)
1991-98 tenerife (isole canarie)
1999-02: azov (russia)
2002: samoa (polinesia)

Viviana Spada

  • www.kon-tiki.no
  • www.mheyerdahl.com

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