Azerbaijan International

Winter 2006 (14.4)

Pacific Voyage
Preparing the Raft

All photos: Anders Berg/Tangaroa



11. Torgeir at the balsa plantation in Quevedo, Ecuador.

12. The Tangaroa crew ordered the balsa trees in November 2004. The trees were selected and marked in February 2005. The idea was to identify trees, which would be the most buoyant. Since female trees are lighter than male trees, native specialists would knock against the trunk to detect by sound which were the more porous trees. Then in January 2006, a cut was made around the circumference of the trunk to prevent the sap from rising.

Two weeks later the trees were cut down and left with their branches and leaves attached to dry out. Finally, as shown above, Torgeir and workmen stripped the trunk of its bark and prepared the logs to be transported to Peru where the raft would be constructed.

13. Organizing logs for transportation to Peru where the raft would be built. The raft was made of 11 balsa logs, the longest one in the middle of the vessel measured 17 meters (about 56 feet) long, while the others were 14 meters (46 feet). Despite the fact that balsa produces one of the lightest weight woods, the logs all together weighed more than 20 tons.

15. Eleven large balsa logs were used to construct the base of the Tangaroa raft. The diameters of the logs were between 80-100 cm (32-39 inches) and their length was 14-17 m (45 to 51 feet). Their combined weight was 20 tons.

16. The Tangaroa crew found a family of four expert Peruvian carpenters to prepare the 13m (nearly 43 ft.) mast from pine wood. The tools that had been shipped from Norway, however, got stuck in customs at Callao, resulting in serious delays as the carpenters had to use their own very simple tools to tackle this very big job.

17. Planks used for the nine "guara" centerboards, which could be raised and lowered to steer the raft. The guara centerboards were 4m x 50cm (13 ft x 20 inches) and made of mora fiña.

18. Jacob Sæverud Minde, 7, who lives in Bryne, Norway, attended the Tangaroa launching ceremony in Callao, Peru, on April 26, 2006. There he presented the Norwegian flag to his Uncle Torgeir who had organized the Tangaroa Expedition.

The Norwegian flag was affixed to the top of the raft's mast along with flags from Peru, Ecuador, Sweden, French Polynesia, the United Nations and the Larvik community in Norway. Larvik is the hometown of Thor Heyerdahl where the raft has been returned to become the main exhibition in a future museum to Heyerdahl's legacy.

Like most boys, Jacob loves the Kon-Tiki story. Here he helps the crew by cleaning up the sawdust between the logs and the bamboo deck. It was in this compartment that the crew stowed their huge supply of bottled water. According to Torgeir, this space was sufficient enough to have transported 10 tons of goods.

19. Mona Sæverud Higraff, wife of Expedition Leader Torgeir, christening the Tangaroa in Callao, Peru, on April 28, 2006, when it launched. The Norwegian couple had spent their honeymoon in Ecuador looking for balsa trees in 2003.

20. Construction in progress of the Tangaroa at the navy shipyard at Callao, Peru. The skeleton platform shows the balsa logs, cross beams, bamboo flooring, and cabin prior to laying down the "totora" reed on deck, which had been specially made by Indians living at Lake Titicaca. Sisal hemp was used to tie everything together.

Note the tall wooden guara (centerboard) in the lower right corner of the raft. Skillful use of the guaras - by raising and lowering these boards - enabled the crew to steer the raft against strong winds and currents.

The 30-foot mast for the sail is lying to the left of the raft. Photo: April 13, 2006 - two weeks prior to launching the raft.

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