Aku-Aku – Thor Heyerdahl

Everyone has seen the statues on Easter Island and had a bit of a wonder about the who, how and why, but what of the rest of the secrets that the island holds?  There is a lot more to Easter Island than meets the eye.

Aku-Aku sees intrepid Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl hunting out the secrets, history, legends and myths surrounding Rapa Nui (the inhabitants name for Easter Island). For a book written in the mid fifties, it doesn’t particularly feel like it has aged.

Some of Heyerdahl’s conjectures have been disproved and some of the language is though, inevitably dated.The photos too, show their age, yet strangely, this just adds to the time warp sensation the book exudes on every page. Reading this you really do feel like you are on an island at the edge of the world.

So that’s the negative points out of the way, if indeed they are of any significance in the first place. This is a book very much of its time and yet has lasting appeal in any age.

A key element of all Heyerdahl’s books, is the way he is quite happy to risk life and limb for the sake of knowledge, this curiosity leads him to describe what is the most harrowing cave expedition I have ever read. Although sitting in a big airy room, I was nauseated by the sheer claustrophobia he was describing.

The intensity of description and the insights into the people’s he meets and how they behave draws you into their world. Not to mention their overwhelming superstitious beliefs the local populace have brings a lot more depth than the average travel book,  humour is also incidental and not forced (a trait of more modern travel literature) and sits at ease with the wealth of savage history that seems to permeate the rocks of the island.

In short this is one of my favourite travel books, by my favourite travel writer, if anyone has the slightest interest in ancient peoples, migration patterns, history, culture, art or a myriad of other related subjects then this book is definitely worth you time to read and reread.

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