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Heyerdahl grandson plans Kon-Tiki sequel

A Norwegian team will retrace the legendary adventurer’s route to draw attention to environmental issues

A Norwegian team will retrace the legendary adventurer’s route to draw attention to environmental issues

Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl spurred the imagination of generations of adventurers when he sailed his balsa raft, Kon-Tiki, across the Pacific. Next year, a team that includes his grandson will re-create that epic voyage.

The expedition, backed by Norway’s Environment Ministry and endorsed by the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, is intended to honor Heyerdahl and draw attention to environmental threats to land and sea, according to published reports. The team will follow the route of the epic 1947 voyage aboard a balsa raft named for the Polynesian god of the ocean, Tangaroa. The voyage, from Peru to Tahiti, is scheduled to start in April 2005.

Although Tangaroa will be primitive, much like the original Kon-Tiki, the raft will have such modern devices as solar panels and GPS. While the original Kon-Tiki lacked steering capabilities and relied on wind and currents to carry it to its destination, the Tangaroa team plans to install a steering system. The team also will have Internet access and transmit updates of the voyage. They plan to take scientific samples along the way and will test new theories on ancient navigation techniques.

Heyerdahl and five others sailed Kon-Tiki 4,900 miles from Peru to Polynesia in 101 days to prove the theory that ancient mariners could have crossed vast stretches of open ocean. Despite the popular belief that Polynesia was settled from southeast Asia, Heyerdahl theorized that the South Sea islands were settled by South Americans.

Heyerdahl, who died in 2002 at the age of 87, described the voyage to the Polynesian island of Raroia in a best-selling book, “Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft,” and a documentary, which won an Oscar in 1951.

Heyerdahl also sailed Ra, a replica of an ancient papyrus vessel, in 1969 from Morocco to the Caribbean but had to abandon ship a short distance from his destination in Barbados. Heyerdahl then tried again with Ra II and sailed 4,000 miles across the Atlantic to Barbados in 57 days. The voyage of the Kon-Tiki, however, is what made Heyerdahl’s legend.

“Kon-Tiki is one of the world’s best-known expeditions,” team leader Torgeir Saeverud Higraff, a teacher and journalist, said in a September news conference at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.

“It is difficult to follow in the footsteps of your childhood hero,” expedition member Inge Meloey, 29, told reporters.

The team will include Olav Heyerdahl, the 27-year-old grandson of the famed explorer. A carpenter, building engineer and diver, Heyerdahl will build the raft and be responsible for maintaining it during the trip. “I had to say ‘yes’ to satisfy my sense of adventure,” he said.

Though the rainforest in Peru that supplied balsa for Heyerdahl’s raft is gone, the team plans to cut balsa trees in a nearby forest, according to reports. The team plans to take the same amount of time as the Kon-Tiki voyage.