The Kon-Tiki Expedition – Thor Heyerdahl

 ‘In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl and five companions attempt to cross the Pacific ocean on a balsa-wood raft in a bid to prove Heyerdahl’s theory that the Polynesians undertook the same feat on similar craft over a thousand years ago from South America’.

Every so often a book about an extraordinary yet mind bogglingly mental feat of human ingenuity comes along and you feel compelled to stop and read about it. Written in the forties this book still holds up well today, but then again sailing the Pacific in a raft is always going to be a timeless pursuit.

First of all this is very inspiring stuff, it has all the qualities of an adventure story (with photos) and really captures the imagination. The reader is always aware that they may be following a route used +1000 years ago and that the time gap coupled with the actual physical gap the team are hoping to bridge makes their endeavour all the more magical.

What makes this enterprise more fascinating is the sheer guts that it must take to go into the Pacific without GPS or satellite phones (it is 1947 remember), just a radio and the knowledge that if the raft falls apart or anyone gets badly injured they are on their own.  The feeling of mortality and real risk makes itself felt more forcefully than the safety first exploits of todays adventurers.

The writing style is simple but very vivid and never overplayed as the crew go about their daily tasks and musings on science, history, life and humanities place in the universe.  There is plenty of drama and although they are travelling over the Pacific ocean the book by no means loses the wind out of its sails at any time and never descends into dull repetition of day after day tasks on the ocean where the view never changes, but keeps the reader constantly turning the pages.

This is deservedly a true classic of the travel genre and if I had to be picky about one thing it would be the map at the front of the book that actually shows the outcome of the journey. I wholeheartedly recommend not looking at it and consulting an atlas if you want to see where they are aiming to journey to, without spoiling the conclusion of the book.

8 Replies to “The Kon-Tiki Expedition – Thor Heyerdahl”

  1. Fantastic review! A shame the map spoils the outcome, but what a magnificent feat of courage and bravery. Terribly inspiring stuff! A travel book worth reading!


  2. Thankyou for the feedback dude, since I have decided to restart blogging, I think the reviews will now be of better quality. Or come with map warnings at any rate.


  3. This gravatar of mine is showing me reading the very book you are talking about. 🙂
    I do remember feeling irritated because the same sentence would be repeated in two successive rows and the descriptions of nature sometimes felt like written by schoolboy. But, never mind that – I judge it truly amazing, thought provoking and humorous. Feel the urge to quote favorite parts here but I’ll refrain myself.
    I have seen the documentary and the movie made last year but nothing like the book!


    1. There was a movie…some things should just be left as they originally were. I am surprised that I haven’t asked you what you were enjoying in your enchanted forest, conversely I am not surprised at my own forgetfulness to ask. It is a wonderfully compelling book, have you read any of his other stuff? I have read Aku-Aku, also reviewed and I have three others but I’m trying to eke them out a bit. I always feel sad once I have finished reading all I have by an author…sometimes it takes days for me to snap out of it, sometimes just one book though. Quote away my friend, everyone loves a good sound byte.


  4. Kon-Tiki is the only Heyerdahl’s work I’ve read so far. It was highly recommending, as you know, and I will be reading some of the others, too – when I stumble upon an actual, physical book, or when I finally decide to purchase Kindle..
    Yes, the sadness.. I’ve felt it.. But, what I also tend to feel is some kind of joy in knowing the author, and contentment in possessing him in a way, making him part of my thought repository, incorporating him in my way of thinking. However, when that ceases to be enough I know I have some rereading to do.


    1. Kindle? Noooo, I can’t abide them, save your money and go to a second hand bookshop and buy loads for the price of a Kindle. You put it so well about ‘knowing the author’. I like the way you see things, in fact this has put a huge smile on my face.


  5. If only there were second hand book shops around.. The ones that existed soon became regular book shops. Now, the only places I can stumble upon good old books are flea market and at street vendors.. Oh, and book fairs, of course.
    I know, I don’t feel much for Kindle either, but they can come handy when there are too many books (of recent publication.. and, by recent I mean past 10-15 years) I want to read but can not afford to buy (or don’t know if I want to till I read them)… Did you know, I read Possession on portable media player! And Smilla’s Sense of Snow on my mobile phone!! (later I bought the actual book) Sometimes I get really crazy for the text that the media is of small importance.
    I’m glad I put a smile on your face. Knowing it put a smile on mine.


    1. I feel for you if there are no classic second hand bookshops around…times are bad…I have to travel fourteen miles to get to a decent one myself. I see your point about the medium not being important, no one has put it like that exactly before…that does make me wonder if my perspective has been a tad (just a tad) blinkered. Your statement intrigues me…


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