The Great Kon-Tiki Expedition
During the process of creating Castaway, our Polynesian inspired Mai Tai Double IPA, our minds wandered to the great Kon-Tiki Expedition of 1947. Wait. You don’t know the courageous tale of the Kon-Tiki? To be honest, neither did I. In fact, I thought Contiki was the bus tour company who drive drunken Australians around the world. No! Kon-Tiki was very different. Where Contiki has boat race drinking games, Kon-Tiki had a raft weathering the treacherous Pacific Ocean. Where Contiki has their drunken tour leader, Nathan, Kon-Tiki had their fearless captain, Thor Heyerdahl.
“But why did they sail the Pacific Ocean on nothing more than a raft?” I hear you say. Well, good ol’ Thor was one smart cookie. He observed that the Pacific Islands had vegetation native to South America and theorised the origins of the Pacific Islanders must have arrived from the east (South America) instead of the widely accepted west (not South America). Thor shared his thoughts with several leading anthropologists, who laughed him out the room. “Sure, see how far you get yourself sailing from Peru to the South Pacific on a balsa raft!” they taunted. If Heyerdahl needed any more motivation to prove his theory, he got it. But to prove the doubters wrong, he needed a crew.
Five trusty men and one Spanish speaking parrot were quickly assembled, all with a thirst for adventure and Heyerdahl's only requirement; unwavering courage. You would have thought it’d be sailing experience, but Thor didn’t care about that. Literally none of the crew had sailed before. As expected, many deemed the mission suicide, but Thor had faith in his crew, and they had faith in him.
On the 28th April 1947, the crew set sail from Peru on their creeky hand-made balsa raft, christened Kon-Tiki after the Peruvian sun god. It took the crew 101 days, weathering ferocious storms, meeting a whopping 30-foot whale shark, and losing their trusty parrot (who let’s be honest, was the weakest link in the crew), before they hit a reef not far from Tahiti. The expedition was a success, achieving what many believed impossible. Heyerdahl had proven his theory that people from South America could indeed have traveled across the Pacific Ocean and populated the South Pacific Islands.
“So, because of Thor everyone now believes the origins of the South Pacific people began in South America?” Well… No. Despite Heyerdahl’s courageous achievement, it is still widely believed that migration came from the west, due to other evidence. But let’s not dwell on that. What this great expedition proved was despite the doubters, if you have courage and faith in your mission, then you can achieve great things. So, while we’re sipping down a Castaway, we’ll cheers to Thor Heyerdahl and his courageous crew, who inspire us to push boundaries and relish, not fear, the unknown. Cheers!
You can see the real raft in the flesh (balsa wood) at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway and learn more about this great adventure.