Kon-Tiki – Again

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This month two replicas of Thor Heyerdahl’s ancient pre-Incan rafts Kon-Tiki, christened Rahiti Tane and Tupac Yupanqui, have set out to sail from South America to Eastern Island – and back! The expedition has been named Kon-Tiki 2.

On their official homepage expedition leader Håkon Wium Lie explains that Kon-Tiki 2 got its name because they seek to double-down on Thor Heyerdahl’s famous voyage by sailing two rafts from South America to Polynesia and then back. No one has done this in modern times.

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“We will prove that it can be done. It’s an unparalleled voyage of survival, science and exploration,” he says.

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Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki voyage showed that people from South America could have sailed westwards and populated islands in the Pacific. The balsa raft had for instance keel and a type of sail that made it possible to cross the wind. The new expedition that started from Lima on November 9, aims prove that the Polynesians also were able to sail back from South America.

251115-kon-tiki-2-mealThe two rafts will sail for about six weeks and 5,000 kilometers until they reach Rapa Nui. There they turn around and head back to South America. The expedition has chosen to use two rafts and two teams for safety reasons.

The rafts are fitted with transponders and beacons in the event that an emergency requires a search and rescue response.

“We have a number of activities during our voyage, and it is important for us to convey widest possible knowledge,” says expedition leader Thorgeir Higraff to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. Higraff has a great sense of discovery and adventure. Throughout his life he has had Thor Heyerdahl as his great hero, and he siled in the same waters with the Tagora expedition in 2006.

When the two rafts of the Kon Tiki 2 Expedition sailed from Lima they were equipped for full-scale ocean and climate research. During the two legs – Peru to Easter Island before Christmas and Easter Island to Peru after Christmas – the rafts will make thousands of measurements in order to understand how changes in marine life relate to climate change and ocean pollution. The expedition takes place during the El Nino of 2015/2016, a fortunate fact which will deepen insights into the interactions between the marine ecosystem and the changing marine environment.

Higraff says they want to measure climate change and ocean acidification, marine litter pollution, El Nino and operational weather forecasting in addition to marine life.

Thorgeir Higraff
Thorgeir Higraff

The Polynesian population shows Caucasoid as well as Mongolian physical traits. Their origin is heavily disputed. The traditional and prevailing perception is that they originate from Southeast Asia.

The two rafts - Kon-Tiki-2
The two rafts – Kon-Tiki-2

Immigration from there to the central archipelagos Tonga and Tahiti is supposed to have begun about 3,000 years ago. Easter Island was first populated 200-300 years AD, Hawaii around 500 AD and New Zealand in the late 1100s.

One of the rafts leaving from Peru
One of the rafts leaving from Peru

Thor Heyerdahl argued, however, that the Polynesians came from the east and is of American Indian ancestry, and that immigration began considerably later: In his opinion, the first settlement came from Peru around 500 AD.

All images: Kon-Tiki 2

Kon-Tiki  – Again, written by Tor Kjolberg

You may also like to read about the Kon Tiki movie.