My Book World
This book may have been written for adults, but I have to believe its adventurous tale appeals to the child inside each one of us. A Norwegian scholar develops a theory that at one time people of Peru crossed the South Pacific; Heyerdahl acquires this idea because huge statues on Easter Island so closely resemble ones found in Peru. Very quickly it seems he scrabbles together a crew of five other men and from drawings of a raft that would have been used in earlier times, the men build the Kon-Tiki essentially from nine huge balsa logs. That feat itself is a large undertaking as the men somehow receive permission from Peruvian officials to go into the forest and harvest such logs from balsa trees—even though commercial logging of balsa has been disallowed for some time.
Then there is the 4,000 mile adventure in which, at first, the raft with a sail is seized by the Humboldt Current. However, as they escape its grasp, the six men embark on a most idyllic, though challenging, cruise across the South Pacific. They worry little about food (though they’ve brought certain stores with them) as they are besieged in the morning with flying fish that they either cook for breakfast or use as bait to catch bigger fish. Creatures large and small are curiously drawn to their vessel, and, though the men are wary at first, they become friends with the aquatic beasts. The primitive raft has its shortcomings so when they finally come upon an island, because of the raft’s steering limitations, they must pass it by. Sometime later, however, they spot another island group, and this time their voyage comes to an abrupt end as the raft breaks up on a reef.
What follows may be the most delightful part of Heyerdahl’s perfectly arced narrative. Curious natives from a nearby island of 127 inhabitants see smoke from the men’s cooking fire and carefully approach them. The six men become heroes to the village and are treated royally for weeks on end before they are able to use their ham (amateur) radio and contact Tahiti and then Norwegian officials. A 4,000 ton ship is dispatched to pick them up, and then the six men and all villagers part with tears in their eyes. The book may be tinged with a childlike naiveté, but it is also filled with a certain curiosity and courage, qualities that are necessary for cultures to cross boundaries and for its inhabitants to realize they have more in common than they don’t.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 4: My Book World | Kate Lardner's Shut Up He Explained: The Memoir of a Blacklisted Kid