‘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.