Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki Fame Dead at 87

OSLO, Norway (AP) – Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian adventurer who crossed the Pacific on a balsa log raft and detailed his harrowing 101-day voyage in the book “Kon-Tiki,” died Thursday night. He was 87. Heyerdahl stopped taking food, water or medication in early April after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Relatives said he died in his sleep at a hospital near his family retreat at Colla Michari, Italy.

Experts scoffed at Heyerdahl when he set off to cross the Pacific aboard a balsa raft in 1947, saying it would get water logged and sink within days.After 101 days and 4,900 miles, he proved them wrong by reaching Polynesia from Peru, in a bidto prove his theories of human migration.

I believe I saw the movie “Kon-Tiki” when I was quite young, although probably not the year it came out (1950), which was the year of my fifth birthday. Although I can’t say I remember any details of the movie, it made enough of an impression on me that I still remember having seen it some fifty years later.

He was quite a man. May he rest in peace.

Damn! I read Kon Tiki while I was in grammar school, and I was so impressed I went out and read Aku-Aku and, lacking anything else, his technical reports. I was impressed! (Ra Expeditions and his other book were far in the future). Sorry to hear he’s dead. I would’ve liked to have met him.

  • there goes one of the true adventurers. He sure didn’t live life anything but 100% - resistance fighter, wild expeditions, the works. I’ll have to reread his book.
  • stamped his own ticket ? I’m not at all surprised. They don’t make them like him anymore, do they ?

There’s suddenly a whole lot less coolness in the world. :frowning:

Hoo"Ra" for a life well lived.
Goodbye Thor. You sir, were a badass.

Damn. Reading the stories of the Kon-Tiki and Ra expeditions fired my imagination when I was a child. I wanted to go sailing and exploring with him…

Goodbye, Mr. Hyerdahl, and good luck on your new expedition.

Wonder if there will be a special memorial service for his patented chrome plated titanium balls. Few men are equipped with them, and he had one of the biggest sets ever.

We’ll miss you forever, Thor.


Farvel Thor. I remember, as a kid, reading Kon-Tiki and thinking it would be the coolest thing ever to just get on a raft and go floating off somewhere. Heyerdahl actually lived that dream. One of the obituaries I saw today pictured him on the Kon-Tiki, holding a live shark–now that’s just superhuman.

Saw the headline and shrieked. Kon-Tiki is/was, by my left hand, next to the keyboard.

He would have made a good SDMB member.

Call me an uneducated heathen, but I barely knew who the guy was until just under a year ago when I went to his museum in Oslo.

It holds Ra II and the Kon Tiki, which are fairly impressive.

I remember hearing about Heyerdahl when I was a kid. It seems there was a film called The Ra Expedition, IIRC. When I was even younger, I had a neighbour who made concrete Easter Island heads in his back yard. I used to watch Gilligan’s Island. I loved watching the National Geographic specials. Jaques Cousteau was my hero. I watched his Undersea World series and pored over his books. So I had some exposure to “South Sea” stuff when I was growing up.

And yet I’ve never read Kon Tiki nor have I seen the film. It was one of those things that I kept telling myself I’d get around to one day. I saw a documentary on Heyerdahl on one of the cable channels last year. Yeah, I’ll have to get around to reading his book. But I forgot about it.

So yesterday I picked up the book and the DVD. I’ll watch the DVD tonight or tomorrow, and I’ll read the book as soon as I finish re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

. . . So I the ONLY one who read “Kon Tiki” as a kid mostly to see the photos of all those lovely Danish sailors in their tiny little loincloths, huh?

A childhood hero, inspiration of several abortive attempts to construct a raft…

I’ll raise a glass to him tonight.

As a kid, we had a big “picture book” version of Kon-Tiki. I always went to the picture of the whale shark. Made quite an impression.

One day we found a driftwood sculpture of a bearded man with marbles as eyes floating in lake Mich. We took it home and my Ps named him Aku-aku. Did not know til later whence the name came.

Then went through a major TH period, reading about both Rs, Kon-Tiki, and the islands. Really neat stuff to get a young mind working creatively on all kinds of levels.

(To my embarassment, when I saw the obit, my first thought was that I thought he had alredy died. My bad!)

Sigh there goes another of the great ones.

In my case (growing up in the Caribbean in the 60s and 70s) I first became aware of him through the Ra expeditions, then checked out Kon-Tiki. Wow.

Whether or not his theories became accepted or proved it DID happen, here was someone who would not be, like too many others nowadays, content with saying “hey, X could happen” and whining about not being accepted; but someone who went and put his own ass physically on the line proving it could happen. With dudes like this you could understand how once upon a time the Northmen had the rest of Europe praying in fear.

And in the end he decided to “hang up his oars” ( his own words, from CNN-Europe) and go when it was time.


He was some buck alright. His theory that Polynesian peoples originated in South America is still considered pretty ‘out there’ in academic circles but he certainly put his money (and a lot else) where his mouth was. May his gods go with him.