Book Review: Kon-Tiki (T. Heyerdahl)

posted in: Travel Books | 2

(latest update: 27/09/2023)

The book Kon-Tiki tells the incredible adventure of how Thor Heyerdahl demonstrated the possible connection between the pre-Inca and the Polynesian civilizations, crossing the Pacific Ocean with 5 men on a balsa log raft.

Besides the book, this story is been told in the movie “Kon-Tiki” (2012) and it has its own museum in Oslo.

Cover of the book "Kon-Tiki" by Thor Heyerdahl. Italian Edition: Robin Edizioni.

Review: “Kon-Tiki” – Thor Heyerdahl (1948)

In the Polinesyan culture and Mytholgy, Tiki is a god, son of the sun. A great chief that brought his people from a far away land to live on these Pacific islands. But which one was this far away land?

Studies show that the islands in the South seas have been colonized during two different waves: the first one around 500 a.C. and a second one around 1100. About this second invasion, at the beginning of the XX century, we knew very little. The almost only information were that these people were coming from a “stone age” culture, they had white skin and they were worshipping the god-sun.

There are incredible similarities between the findings in Polynesia and those of the white men civilization of South America: the colossal representation of their divinity and the monoliths; the use of twisted ropes to remember information in absence of writings skills, like the ones from the Inca in Peru; the white skin and long beard described both by the Inca after this men mysteriously “disappeared” and by those that landed on Easter Island for the first time in 1722; the god sun that Inca called Kon-Tiki and described as the highest priest of the disappeared white men.

These are the premises that push Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian ethnologist, to demonstrate that the Polynesian civilization is originally from South-America.

Plot (with few spoilers… but this is history!)

“It’s impossible” had been the usual answer Heyerdah received when he was explaining his theory to the science community. “Then you try to go from Peru to the Pacific islands on a balsa raft!”.
What do you do when you have a good theory with many clues but no scientific proof? You organize an expedition on a balsa log raft from Peru to Polynesia!

Heyerdah and 5 other men (navigators, sociologists, radio technicians, engineers) prepare a journey through the Pacific Ocean.
To prove their theory, though, they have to travel in the same way the ancient civilization would have travelled: they were expert sailing men but very basic resources. Following in every detailed the findings and the descriptions we still have now days, the five adventurers built a raft made of very specific Peruvian trees and a simple sail. They loaded it provisions, christened the raft Kon-Tiki and left following the winds and the currents.

The book goes on following this incredible journey of more than 100 sailing days between storms, whales, giant sea turtles, pet fish, tense moments and great expectations.

My opinion

There’s a little bit of everything in this book: history, anthropology, navigation, adventure, nature… I’ve found really interesting the discovery of the relationship between two civilizations so incredibly far away from each other but with the very same ruts. And the slightly crazy process of the author to show the world he was right.

The writing goes from light and funny to very detailed and descriptive.
The book made me feel like going on a sailing trip (maybe not in the middle of the ocean!) and Easter Island gained a couple of steps in my bucket list! Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to visit the Kon-Tiki museum when I was in Oslo. But the curiosity about this adventure stayed with me, which makes me endorse this book as a good read.

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2 Responses

  1. Chloé

    I’m currently looking for a new book to read and this sounds like it just might be the one! Thanks for the informative recommendation!

    • The Lady

      If you read it, let me know how you like it!!! 😀

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