kon tiki expedition 1947

The visit of the whale shark
The visit of the whale shark
Running with the wind and currents of the Pacific Ocean
Running with the wind and currents of the Pacific Ocean
At rest in Oslo
At rest in Oslo

The Kon Tiki expedition was an epic voyage taking 101 days to cross 4300 miles (6900KM) of the Pacific in 1947. Built to a traditional design using freshly cut balsa logs the raft set off from Peru catching the Humboldt Current that propelled them westward, intending to prove Thor Heyerdahl’s theory that the islands of the Pacific could have been colonized from South America. Though using modern navigating equipment and carrying a radio, the techniques used for building and navigating the raft were traditional as recorded by the first Spanish conquistadors.

Te expedition was a success hitting the reef of Raroia one of the Tuamotu islands with all six crew surviving. The theory that there was significant colonization of the Pacific islands from South America remains unaccepted however. Nonetheless the expedition created huge interest. The raft going with the wind and current became part of the natural world and was in a superb position to observe the creatures living in their natural habitat, from flying fish to the huge whale shark. Though the raft could be directed, to an extent, by its oar used as a rudder (and also by the centreboards as they found out by trial and error), there was no going back. Once in the current and with the wind behind it the raft moved inexorably westward. Anyone who fell off and was not tied on would have been left behind.

The expedition was well documented, a best selling book, The Kon Tiki Expedition and a film called the Kon Tiki made from records of the expedition won an Academy Award in 1952 directed by Thor Heyerdahl and edited by Olle Nodemar.

The film has recently been remade: http://kontikifilm.com/home.html


The Kon Tiki expedition played an important role in stimulating interest in the natural world at a crucial time when people were still recovering from the Second Wold War, and when filming wild life was in its infancy. The actual raft is on exhibition in Oslo.

Kon Tiki is an old name of the Inca Sun God Viracocha

Traditional Polynesian navigation skills have been preserved

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