Thor Heyerdahl - Youth and Personal Life

Youth and Personal Life

Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, the son of master brewer Thor Heyerdahl and his wife Alison Lyng. As a young child, Heyerdahl showed a strong interest in zoology. He created a small museum in his childhood home, with a Vipera berus as the main attraction. He studied zoology and geography at the University of Oslo. At the same time, he privately studied Polynesian culture and history, consulting what was then the world's largest private collection of books and papers on Polynesia, owned by Bjarne Kropelien, a wealthy wine merchant in Oslo. This collection was later purchased by the University of Oslo Library from Kropelien's heirs and was attached to the Kon-Tiki Museum research department. After seven terms and consultations with experts in Berlin, a project was developed and sponsored by Heyerdahl's zoology professors, Kristine Bonnevie and Hjalmar Broch. He was to visit some isolated Pacific island groups and study how the local animals had found their way there.

Just before sailing together to the Marquesas Islands in 1936, Heyerdahl married his first wife, Liv Coucheron-Torp (b. 1916), whom he had met shortly before enrolling at the university, and who had studied economics there. Though she is conspicuously absent from many of his papers and talks, Liv participated in nearly all of Thor's journeys, with the exception of the Kon-Tiki expedition. The couple had two sons; Thor Jr and Bjørn. The marriage ended in divorce.

In 1949 Heyerdahl married Yvonne Dedekam-Simonsen. They had three daughters: Annette, Marian and Helene Elisabeth. They were divorced in 1969. Heyerdahl blamed their separation on his being away from home and differences in their ideas for bringing up children. In his autobiography, he concluded that he should take the entire blame for their separation.

In 1991, Heyerdahl married Jacqueline Beer (b. 1932) as his third wife. They lived in Tenerife, Canary Islands and were very actively involved with archaeological projects, especially in Tucume, Peru, and Azov until his unexpected death in 2002. He still had been hoping to undertake an archaeological project in Samoa before he died.

Heyerdahl died on April 18, 2002, in Colla Micheri in Italy where he had gone to spend the Easter holidays with some of his closest family members. The Norwegian government gave him a state funeral in Oslo Cathedral on April 26, 2002. He is buried in the garden of the family home in Colla Micheri.

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