In the Kon-Tiki expedition, Heyerdahl and five fellow adventurers went to Peru, they constructed a pae-pae raft from balsa wood and other native materials, a raft that they called the Kon-Tiki. The Kon-Tiki expedition was inspired by old reports and drawings made by the Spanish Conquistadors of Inca rafts, and by native legends and archaeological evidence suggesting contact between South America and Polynesia. After a 101-day, 4,300 nautical mile (4,948 miles or 7,964 km) journey across the Pacific Ocean, Kon-Tiki smashed into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Heyerdahl, who had nearly drowned at least twice in childhood, did not take easily to water, and said later that there were times in each of his raft voyages when he feared for his life.
Kon-Tiki demonstrated that it was possible for a primitive raft to sail the Pacific with relative ease and safety, especially to the west (with the wind). The raft proved to be highly maneuverable, and fish congregated between the nine balsa logs in such numbers that ancient sailors could have possibly relied on fish for hydration in the absence of other sources of fresh water. Inspired by Kon-Tiki, other rafts have repeated the voyage. Heyerdahl's book about the expedition, The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas, has been translated into over 67 languages. The documentary film of the expedition, itself entitled Kon-Tiki, won an Academy Award in 1951.
Anthropologists continue to believe, based on linguistic, physical, and genetic evidence, that Polynesia was settled from west to east, migration having begun from the Asian mainland. There are controversial indications, though, of some sort of South American/Polynesian contact, most notably in the fact that the South American sweet potato is served as a dietary staple throughout much of Polynesia. Blood samples taken in 1971 and 2008 from Easter Islanders without any European or other external descent were analysed in a 2011 study, which concluded that the evidence supported some aspects of Heyerdahl's hypothesis. Heyerdahl attempted to counter the linguistic argument with the analogy that, guessing the origin of African-Americans, he would prefer to believe that they came from Africa, judging from their skin colour, and not from England, judging from their speech.
Read more about this topic: Thor Heyerdahl
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