The Kon-Tiki expedition lead by Norwegian scientist Thor Heyerdahl took a balsa reed raft similar to the ones used on Lake Titicaca all the way across the Pacific to Polynesia. The raft was made of only native materials and only with the tecnology that would have been availiable during Pre-Colombian times. This 1947 journey, that was believed impossible, shed new light on the possibilities of the people of both South America and Polynesia.
The voyage set sail on April 28th, 1947 and landed on the island of Raroia 101 days later at a distance of 4,300 miles. The trip proved that migration to/from Polynesia (including Easter Island) and South America was possible.
Many believe that the people of Lake Titicaca, who seem to have a culture far different from other area people, are descendents of these migrants. Genetic testing proved in the past decade that the people of Polynesia did descend from South East Asia and not South America.
Heyerdahl also lead several other successful expeditions around the world using similar prehistoric rafts to prove that contact between the Americas was possible much earlier than previously thought. The scientist also made a significant mark on the continent by leading the excavations at the Northern Peruvian archeological site of Tucume near Chiclayo.
The book written by Heyerdahl about the expedition, Kon-Tiki, was a best seller and a documentary made on the voyage won the Oscar for best picture in 1951.
A voyage, the Tangaroa Expedition, which included Heyerdahl’s grandson Olav set to retrace the 1947 trip was launched from Peru in April 2006.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.