Introduction: Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
If you would like to learn how to plan and execute a major project, then Kon Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft is the book for you. Kon Tiki is not a project management book, but by following the process that Thor Heyerdahl used for his expedition, you will learn how to manage a project. Heyerdahl spent a lot of time conducting research and he wrote a book about settlers traveling from Peru to Polynesia was earlier than thought.
Thor Heyerdahl claimed that they traveled on a raft made from balsa wood. His theory – men of an ancient civilization from their own country [Peru] had been the first to reach the Pacific Islands – that he postulated was contrary to popular belief so no one believed him, even people who knew him well. No one would take the time to read his manuscript. At the time, he was in the United States and running out of money, he knew that he had to make a change in his life. At these moments in life, you have to step up and play big, or go home.
UPDATE: First Published in September 2014
What is Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl About?
Thor Heyerdahl decided to prove that what he wrote in his manuscript was accurate. One of the biggest problems that the experts had with Heyerdahl’s theory is that what he was suggesting, incorporated a blend of disciplines. such as botany and archaeology for it to work. They could not wrap their heads around that because they were specialists, so their knowledge went deep and not wide.
So, there was no way that they could envision a method that transcends sciences and disciplines. To them, what he was suggesting was simply impossible. When you have faith in yourself and the strength of your convictions, you are unstoppable.
Thor Heyerdahl decided that the only way he could prove his point was to go on the expedition, using the type of raft that earlier settlers would have used. Because of his extensive research, he had information on the type of raft and also what it looked like.
He also knew that he needed partners to make the project a success – people to go on the expedition with him, people/organizations to give him the equipment he needed and financial backers. One of the things that he recognized, is that those going on the expedition, in addition to having certain skills, would also need to have a certain disposition since they would be traveling together in close quarters for four months.
Heyerdahl chose five people in addition to himself to make the trek from Peru to Polynesia: Herman Watzinger, Erik Hesselberg, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby and Bengt Danielsson. There is a saying, “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” and that proved to be the case with Thor Heyerdahl. One day while attending a lecture at the Explorer’s Club in New York City, a newly elected member, Colonel Haskin demonstrated a number of new military inventions, many of which would be useful for Heyerdahl’s expedition.
You cannot imagine the amount of planning it took to get such an expedition going, and he needed the assistance of many to cut through the bureaucracy to get what he needed. One of the reasons they secured the equipment they needed, was that they promised to test the equipment and take detailed notes.
Most people would have quit because of the many challenges and obstacles. Thor Heyerdahl and Herman Watzinger risked their lives to secure the balsa wood. Many wanted them to wait six months when conditions were more ideal to access the wood, but the explorers were unwilling to delay the trip. In the end, they got the wood. After they built the raft using balsa wood, the experts came to look at it, and essentially told them that they were going on a suicide mission. They packed all the supplies and equipment they needed for the trip and each person had a box to fill with any personal effects they wanted to take along. Bengt Danielsson packed his box with over 70 books to read on the voyage.
Despite all the naysayers, they started the expedition on April 28, 1947, and many people attended the send-off. They also received more fresh fruits at that time. The first few days were horrible, and they were wondering if this was evidence for what was to come. Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl chronicles their amazing journey from Peru to the Pacific Islands.
There were many difficulties during the journey, but they had some amazing experiences as well. For instance, they saw Gemylus, a fish thought to be extinct because previously only the bones had been seen. The explorers preserved one to take home.
One of the things the six discovered is that when you move slowly you see much more than when you are racing ahead. Because they were traveling by raft, they were closer to nature and was able to see and interact with it. They saw sharks, whales, dolphins, many species of fish and many other organisms. With all that nature had to offer, there is no way that they could have starved. Each person on the voyage had a specialty, but they all performed other tasks.
At the start of the voyage, they outlined a few rules pertaining to how they would work together, and this was essential for success. They looked out for each other and developed a strong bond. Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby manned the radio sending messages about weather patterns and other information to whoever they were able to connect with. Erik Hesselberg was responsible for letting them know their location.
On July 30th, they spied an island, and according to Hesselberg, it was Puka Puka, but not the Polynesian Island they wanted. They were excited though, because they had successfully made it to the Pacific Islands on the balsa wood raft. They drifted away, and next they saw Angatau, which was inhabited. Some of the natives used canoes to reach them, which was very joyous.
They tried, but couldn’t get the raft to land on the island and they drifted away and ended up shipwrecked on an uninhabited South Sea island. Natives on a nearby island noticed a light (fire) at night and sent people to investigate. Before the shipwreck, the four men knew what would happen so they secured all the important things, which were saved.
Have you read?
Five Great Ideas from Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
They spent some time on the neighboring island, Raroia, with the 127 natives and they related their encounters on the voyage. The natives couldn’t get enough of the stories and there was a real sharing between the two groups. There was a young boy who had an abscess and a high fever. He was close to death, so the explorers used the radio to see who they could connect to. The person on the other end called a doctor and related the situation and was able to pass on the information. The six had penicillin, which they used to cure the boy.
A ship came for them and their equipment, and with great sadness they left the people of Raroia. Here are some of the lessons in Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft.
Lessons from Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
- To get what you want in life, you have to appeal to people’s self-interest.
- There is truth to the adage to stop and smell the roses. From time-to-time, slow down and enjoy your journey in life.
- For any journey to be successful, you have to have a powerful objective.
- The hardest part of the journey is often the start.
- Believe in yourself.
- Read from other disciplines besides your own, so you will have more creative ideas.
The Tangaroa Expedition (The Kon-Tiki Expedition) 2012 Documentary
Cannot view the video? The Kon-Tiki Expedition
Final Thoughts Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
The Tangaroa Expedition is a recreation of the Kon Tiki expedition, which happened 60 years earlier. Olav Heyerdahl, grandson of Thor Heyerdahl was one of the six men on the later trip. It would have been nice if a woman was on the trip.