Named for the Incan sun-deity Kon-Tiki, the Kon-Tiki raft has a remarkable purpose behind its construction and utilisation. The raft was built based on the vision of Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, the well-renowned social scientist and adventurist. The Kon-Tiki story thus follows an incredible exploration by Dr. Heyerdahl and his team of fellow enthusiasts that lasted for exactly 101 days for traversing 4,300 nautical miles, in the year 1947.
Kon-Tiki Construction Premise
According to Dr. Heyerdahl’s hypothesis, it was quite possible for the Incans to have crossed the waters of the Pacific with their limited technological equipments and successfully take over the islands of Polynesia.
Based on this hypothesis, Dr. Heyerdahl decided to build a raft, quite akin to the ones designed and built in the ancient times. Even the main building component utilised was similar to the ones used by the original Spanish colonisers of the South American continent. The final party to this exploration included six members – including Dr. Heyerdahl.
Kon-Tiki Constructional Features
Built of balsa wood, the Kon-Tiki raft was designed in such a way that it could weather any kind of weather conditions, while also providing its inhabitants with much required sustenance. Balsa wood was a highly favoured wood type when it came to shipbuilding aesthetics. The validity of the balsa wood as the main constructional medium in the past was also sought to be verified through this Kon-Tiki travel exploration. The balsa wood was supposed to rise along with tide, thereby facilitating an ease to the voyagers. Similarly, the wood could also be effectively dried in sunlight, which further boosted its usage in the ancient past.
- The raft’s base was built of nine logs of balsa wood, each measuring two foot in thickness
- The length of the logs varied between 30 and 45 feet, where the longest were placed on the centre bordered by the slightly shorter logs
- Apart from the balsa wood base, the raft was also supported by shafts and a mast of the same wood component
- The raft was equipped with both a sail and an oaring device along with gadgetries like a compass, watch, nautical charts and measuring devices
The raft was built in the Peruvian navy yard of Callao, from where it embarked on his intended navigation on the 28th April 1947. After almost five months of travel, it reached the Polynesian island of Tuamotu on the seventh of August, thus laying credibility to Dr. Heyerdahl’s claims.
Funds and Financing
The whole exploration was financed by loans taken up through individuals. The required gadgetries were procured through contributions made by the military wing of the United States. Alongside these, the Peruvian government officials and navy helped by providing a required constructional and launching site for the Kon-Tiki raft.
Adaptation in Literature and Cinema
The entire Kon-Tiki travel experience was made into a docudrama in the year 1951. The docudrama went on to bag the Oscar as the best motion picture for that year. The movie was directed by Dr. Heyerdahl, who also penned a book about the Kon-Tiki story in the year 1948. A bestselling book of its time, it was translated into 88 languages for the whole world to read and get a glimpse of a historic exploratory adventure, in the coming years.