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Famous raft trip across Pacific

Jan 1, 2003

It was 50 years ago this August that a group of bearded, tanned, and salt-encrusted Scandinavians drove their raft onto the reef of a South Pacific island.

Norwegian archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl and his five companions had successfully sailed Kon-Tiki, a 40-foot raft made of lashed balsa logs, 4,300 miles in a little more than three months from Callao, Peru, to the Polynesian island Puka Puka.

Heyerdahl's subsequent book, Kon-Tiki, Across the South Pacific by Raft, inspired a generation of sailors and adventurers with its description of pursuing a dream to prove a scientific theory: that Polynesia could have been reached by ancient people from South America.

The mostly Norwegian crewthere was one Swedecaught sharks bare-handed by grabbing their tails, battled mountainous seas, were swept overboard many times, and generally had a fine time. The book, which was translated into 64 lan-guages, is now out of print.

Theyerdahl's later book, The Ra Expeditions, chronicled his voyage from Morocco to the Caribbean aboard a raft built entirely of reeds.