Scientists and historians have long debated whether ancient cultures crossed the world’s oceans thousands of years before Columbus. One
Norwegian, named Thor Heyerdahl, decided to test the theory with action.
While living on Fatu Hiva island in the South Pacific, Heyerdahl listened as the people told him they had originally come from lands to the east, South America. Later, Heyerdahl found similarities between stone carvings on Fatu Hiva and the wooden poles fashioned by Indians in the Pacific Northwest.
He theorized that American Indians had migrated from South America to the South Pacific islands. Not content to theorize, in 1947 Heyerdahl built a 45-foot raft of logs and bamboo and set himself and five crewmen adrift from Peru. The ocean currents pulled the raft north and then west into the open ocean.
After drifting for 101 days and 4,300 miles, Heyerdahl and his men reached the Tuamotu Islands in the South Pacific. Bolstered by this success, Heyerdahl next wondered about the similarity between Egyptian pyramids and the pyramids of central America.
In 1969, he constructed a papyrus-reed boat and voyaged across the Atlantic from North Africa to Barbados, an island off North America. Heyerdahl’s theories were extremely controversial, and historians and anthropologists still argue whether his voyages are proof of early sea travel. Yet his journeys represent contemporary examples of the daring of early explorers.