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SOLAR PIONEER - PlanetSolar heading out into uncharted technical waters. The theory was in place, but nobody knew if this solar powered boat could make it. But they did! The solar panel area on this ship was increased with solar panels on rollers, pulled out by the crew using winches. The Elizabeth Swann uses robotics and hydraulics to move solar wings that automatically track the sun, and fold away in storm conditions.

The Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, added to our knowledge of the spread of human colonization of the world in 1947 with his Kontiki and later Ra expeditions. Thor discovered, or rather proved his concept, that trade winds are capable of blowing a balsa wood raft from South America to the Tuamoto Islands, and in a follow on expedition that a reeds floater could sail from Egypt to America.




EXPLORER - Despite the fact that, for many years, much of his work was not accepted by the scientific community, Heyerdahl, nonetheless, increased public interest in ancient history and anthropology. He also showed that long-distance ocean voyages were possible with ancient designs. As such, he was a major practitioner of experimental archaeology. The Kon-Tiki Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo, Norway houses vessels and maps from the Kon-Tiki expedition, as well as a library with about 8,000 books.

The Thor Heyerdahl Institute was established in 2000. Heyerdahl himself agreed to the founding of the institute and it aims to promote and continue to develop Heyerdahl's ideas and principles. The institute is located in Heyerdahl's birth town of Larvik, Norway. In Larvik, the birthplace of Heyerdahl, the municipality began a project in 2007 to attract more visitors. Since then, they have purchased and renovated Heyerdahl's childhood home, arranged a yearly raft regatta in his honour at the end of summer and begun to develop a Heyerdahl centre.



Thor Heyerdahl (6 October 1914 – 18 April 2002) was a Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany and geography.

Heyerdahl is most notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, in which he sailed 8,000 km (5,000 mi) across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between societies. This was linked to a diffusionist model of cultural development.

Heyerdahl made other voyages to demonstrate the possibility of contact between widely separated ancient peoples, notably the Ra II expedition of 1970, when he sailed from the west coast of Africa to Barbados in a papyrus reed boat. He was appointed a government scholar in 1984.

He died on 18 April 2002 in Colla Micheri, Liguria, Italy, while visiting close family members. The Norwegian government gave him a state funeral in Oslo Cathedral on 26 April 2002.

In May 2011, the Thor Heyerdahl Archives were added to UNESCO's "Memory of the World" Register. At the time, this list included 238 collections from all over the world. The Heyerdahl Archives span the years 1937 to 2002 and include his photographic collection, diaries, private letters, expedition plans, articles, newspaper clippings, original book, and article manuscripts. The Heyerdahl Archives are administered by the Kon-Tiki Museum and the National Library of Norway in Oslo.






In 1947 Heyerdahl and five fellow adventurers sailed from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia in a pae-pae raft that they had constructed from balsa wood and other native materials, christened the Kon-Tiki. The Kon-Tiki expedition was inspired by old reports and drawings made by the Spanish Conquistadors of Inca rafts, and by native legends and archaeological evidence suggesting contact between South America and Polynesia.


The Kon-Tiki smashed into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotus on 7 August 1947 after a 101-day, 4,300-nautical-mile (5,000-mile or 8,000 km) journey across the Pacific Ocean. Heyerdahl had nearly drowned at least twice in childhood and did not take easily to water; he said later that there were times in each of his raft voyages when he feared for his life.





Kon-Tiki demonstrated that it was possible for a primitive raft to sail the Pacific with relative ease and safety, especially to the west (with the trade winds). The raft proved to be highly manoeuvrable, and fish congregated between the nine balsa logs in such numbers that ancient sailors could have possibly relied on fish for hydration in the absence of other sources of fresh water. Other rafts have repeated the voyage, inspired by Kon-Tiki.

Heyerdahl's book about The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas has been translated into 70 languages. The documentary film of the expedition entitled Kon-Tiki won an Academy Award in 1951. A dramatised version was released in 2012, also called Kon-Tiki, and was nominated for both the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 70th Golden Globe Awards. It was the first time that a Norwegian film was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Anthropologists continue to believe that Polynesia was settled from west to east, based on linguistic, physical, and genetic evidence, migration having begun from the Asian mainland. There are controversial indications, though, of some sort of South American/Polynesian contact, most notably in the fact that the South American sweet potato is served as a dietary staple throughout much of Polynesia.


Blood samples taken in 1971 and 2008 from Easter Islanders without any European or other external descent were analysed in a 2011 study, which concluded that the evidence supported some aspects of Heyerdahl's hypothesis. This result has been questioned because of the possibility of contamination by South Americans after European contact with the islands. However, more recent DNA work (after Heyerdahl's death) contradicts the post-European-contact contamination hypothesis, finding the South American DNA sequences to be far older than that. Heyerdahl had attempted to counter the linguistic argument with the analogy that he would prefer to believe that African-Americans came from Africa, judging from their skin colour, and not from England, judging from their speech.






In 1969 and 1970, Heyerdahl built two boats from papyrus and attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco in Africa. Based on drawings and models from ancient Egypt, the first boat, named Ra (after the Egyptian Sun god), was constructed by boat builders from Lake Chad using papyrus reed obtained from Lake Tana in Ethiopia and launched into the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Morocco. The Ra crew included Thor Heyerdahl (Norway), Norman Baker (USA), Carlo Mauri (Italy), Yuri Senkevich (USSR), Santiago Genovés (Mexico), Georges Sourial (Egypt) and Abdullah Djibrine (Chad). Only Heyerdahl and Baker had sailing and navigation experience.

After a number of weeks, Ra took on water. The crew discovered that a key element of the Egyptian boatbuilding method had been neglected, a tether that acted like a spring to keep the stern high in the water while allowing for flexibility. Water and storms eventually caused it to sag and break apart after sailing more than 6,400 km (4,000 miles). The crew was forced to abandon Ra, some hundred miles (160 km) before the Caribbean islands, and was saved by a yacht.





The following year, 1970, a similar vessel, Ra II, was built of papyrus by Demetrio, Juan and José Limachi from Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and likewise set sail across the Atlantic from Morocco, this time with great success. The crew was mostly the same; though Djibrine had been replaced by Kei Ohara from Japan and Madani Ait Ouhanni from Morocco. The boat became lost and was the subject of a United Nations search and rescue mission. The search included international assistance including people as far afield as Loo-Chi Hu of New Zealand. The boat reached Barbados, thus demonstrating that mariners could have dealt with trans-Atlantic voyages by sailing with the Canary Current. The Ra II is now in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway.

The book The Ra Expeditions and the film documentary Ra (1972) were made about the voyages. Apart from the primary aspects of the expedition, Heyerdahl deliberately selected a crew representing a great diversity in race, nationality, religion and political viewpoint in order to demonstrate that at least on their own little floating island, people could co-operate and live peacefully. Additionally, the expedition took samples of marine pollution and presented their report to the United Nations.





RA - All at sea with the reed boat slowly sinking, all part of the expedition, to see what may have been possible. This was because of a design flaw, and of course the limitations of such raw materials. Though the Egyptians were adept at treatments.





Thor Heyerdahl's exploits endeared him to the public who loved the adventure inherent in being so rash as to lash a bunch of logs together and willingly putting your fate in the hands of the gods. His second bash with reeds and sails was less well received, but still commanded the attention of the National Geographic magazine and other contemporary publications. His nationally recognised status in Oslo is well deserved. Can you imagine how the public thought of his (wild) ideas, before his voyages!



During the Age of Sail, early explorers like Vasco Da Gama were unknowingly assisted by these winds to discover new lands and even a route to India. He sailed between July 1497 and May 1498 and was instrumental in humans conquering the sea.


Between 1451 and 1506 Christopher Columbus tried to investigate water movement in the sea. During his exploration mission, he used vessels to sail across various areas, namely the Canary Islands to the Bahamas covering 5400 miles, a voyage of around 36 days.


The Portuguese and Spanish traders soon realised that the prevailing north easterlies of the mid latitudes could blow a ship across the Atlantic Ocean, and even better, the south easterlies on the other side could blow them back again. It was no luck, it was a natural phenomena.

With the advent of the ages of steam and later technologies, we have almost forgotten the role that the Trade Winds played in developing our global economy.


The Elizabeth Swann may be seen as the Kontiki of the renewable shipping world.






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