One of history's greatest adventurers, explorers and researchers, Thor Heyerdahl was born on October 6, 1914 in Larvik, Norway. Heyerdahl studied zoology and geography at Oslo University. During the same period his interest turned to the private study of Polynesian culture and history
Over 60 years ago, in 1947, Heyerdahl set sail from Peru in a balsa-log raft in an effort to prove his theories of human migration. After 101 days at sea in the South Pacific, he arrived in French Polynesia, after a journey of over 4,900 miles. His raft, Kon-Tiki, smashed into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947.
Heyerdahl's theory that humans could have migrated long distances across the oceans to settle the islands of the South Pacific was laughed at until he proved that such journeys were possible without any modern navigational equipment.
His theory that many of the islands of the South Pacific were settled by pre-Incan inhabitants of South America is accepted by relatively few anthropologists. However, the questions he raised regarding the similarities between archeology and artifacts found in South America and those of the islands of Polynesia remain a mystery.
Heyerdahl documented his journey in the best selling book "Kon-Tiki," which has sold millions of copies worldwide. The book was also made into an Academy Award winning documentary.
Following his first voyage, Heyerdahl made several subsequent voyages including a 3200 mile crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco to Barbados.
Heyerdahl's voyages forever laid to rest questions of the abilities of the ancients to travel long distances to spread their culture. He became a noted spokesperson in the effort to protect the oceans from further pollution. His numerous books remain required reading in many colleges and university courses.
Thor Heyerdahl, died of cancer on Thursday, April 18, 2002 at his home in Colla Muchari, Italy at the age of 87. His body was returned to Oslo, Norway where the Norwegian government granted him the honor of a state funeral in the Oslo Cathedral on April 26, 2002.
For more information about Thor Heyerdahl and his exploration and research we recommend the following:
Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft
Heyerdahl's book documenting his 1947 journey across the Pacific has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. The paperback edition of Heyerdahl's adventures was re-released in 1995. It includes a foreword by the author, a selection of critical excerpts, notes, an index, and a unique visual essay of the voyage.
Kon-Tiki - 1951 Documentary
Winner of the 1951 Oscar for Best Documentary, this 58 minute film is comprised of actual footage from Heyerdahl's 4,900 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean.
In the Footsteps of Adam: A Memoir
Heyerdahl's autobiography tells the life story and struggles of one of the 20th century's greatest explorers. It tells of his multiple voyages to prove his theories of human migration.