Thor Heyerdahl is notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947
Heyerdahl is 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.
All his life, Olav Heyerdahl had heard the stories of his grandfather: of how he crossed the Pacific in 1947 on a primitive raft made of balsa wood. Now at last, he got to experience it first hand. As a tribute to his grandfather and the original Kon-tiki expedition, Olav and his team built a new raft in Peru and sailed it all the way to Raiatea in French Polynesia. When they arrived on the 24th of July 2006, after four months at sea, over a thousand people greeted them in a traditional Polynesian welcoming ceremony. This is a spectacular and unique documentary of the modern day voyage, with footage of the 1947 expedition setting the context. The 1947 Kon-tiki film won an Oscar, and Thor Heyerdahl's book has sold more the 50 millions copies worldwide. At the time, the whole world was amazed by this eccentric Norwegian explorer. The story continues to enthral 60 years later, only this time in colour.