Azerbaijan International

Winter 2006 (14.4)
Page 23

Raft Expeditions - Books
Kon-Tiki by Heyerdahl

"Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl tells the story of how six young men proved that a prehistoric voyage from South America was possible, contrary to the predictions of scientists and sailors. The South American balsa raft, which scholars had claimed would sink if it were not regularly dried out ashore, stayed buoyant as a cork. And Polynesia, held to be inaccessible for a watercraft from ancient America, proved to be well within the range of aboriginal voyagers from Peru.

"Kon-Tiki" became a best-seller. Eventually, it was translated into 65 languages [20 million copies] and a film about the voyage was awarded an Oscar as Best Documentary in 1951.

"Given the imaginative birth of this adventure, its brilliant audacity, its gambler's throw with death, its resource in peril and its success, any book about it would, perhaps, write itself. Heyerdahl has made it a superb adventure story, which all the world may, and probably will read."

From Times Literary Supplement in London, April 7, 1950 (reprinted in "Kon -Tiki", Readers' Supplement. Washington Square Press: New York, 1984, p 48)

Sea Drift by Capelotti

"Sea Drift" documents more than 40 expeditions via trans-oceanic rafts that were carried out after Thor Heyerdahl's bold experiment drifting 4,000 miles across the Pacific on the Kon-Tiki balsa raft (1947)Heyerdahl's work which today is called "experimental archaeology" has inspired generations because he took physical risks to test a hypothesis about migratory patterns of early man that had never been tested by modern man. In reality, the majority of them could not be called successful. Several vessels went down at sea and lost some of their crew.

Capelotti's research examines expeditions that have occurred over more than 50 years, which makes "Sea Drift" a truly fascinating account of human daring, endurance, and, sometimes - foolhardiness.

Capelotti wrote the introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of "Kon-Tiki" as well as "By Airship to the North Pole" (Rutgers University Press, 1999). Capelotti teaches archaeology and American studies at Penn State University at Abington.

"Sea Drift: Rafting Adventures in the Wake of Kon-Tiki" by P.J. Capelotti. Rutgers University Press: Piscataway, New Jersey, 2001

La Balsa by Alsar

"La Balsa" is the story of the longest raft voyage in recorded history - 8,600 miles across the Pacific - from Ecuador to Australia. Inspired by Thor Heyerdahl's successful voyage in 1947, Vital Alsar from Spain, along with three other crew members organized an expedition on a similar balsa craft like the Kon-Tiki for an expedition that began in May 1970.

Unfortunately, the craft was too small for the rough waters they encountered. The crew barely survived their ordeal of six months at sea. They had to cope with gale-force winds accompanied by 50-foot waves when the crew had to hang onto the mast to keep from being swept into the ocean. Menacing sharks constantly followed them.

They suffered from extreme temperatures - broiling heat during the day and numbing cold at night. Then they had to maneuver through jagged coral reefs between Samoa and Australia. It was only through sheer wit, character and stamina that the crew even managed to survive. "La Balsa: The Longest Raft Voyage in History" by Vital Alsar with Enrique Hank Lopez. E.P. Dutton: New York, 1973


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