Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Knut Haugland and the Kon-Tiki voyage

Knut Haugland, the last of the six crewment who crossed the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki balsawood raft in 1947 has died aged 92. Led by Norwegian anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, the expedition aimed to prove the theory that people from South America could have crossed the Pacific on such craft to settle in the Polynesian islands. Heyerdahl came to this conclusion after recognising similar carvings in both locations and observing the steady westwards drift of clouds and ocean currents. Expert opinion stated that the expedition would fail, but after sailing over 4,000 miles, the raft made it from the coast of Peru to the Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia.

Haugland's role aboard the Kon-Tiki was that of radio operator, keeping the outside world aware of the raft's stately progress during the long drift westwards on the currents off South America. Read more about his action-packed life here.

The expedition caught the popular postwar imagination and set a new benchmark for modern adventurers. In the wake of the Kon-Tiki's success there were numerous recreations of historical voyages. There was Tim Severin's Brendan Voyage, in which he sailed a leather-clad boat across the Atlantic, Hawaii's Hokule'a in which surfing legend Eddie Aikau died, and there was even the Guardian sponsored Vinland voyage. Led by journalist JRL Anderson, this retraced the 4000 mile route supposedly taken by Leif Eriksson from Greenland to an area near modern day Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, at the turn of the first millennium.

Interest in the Kon-Tiki really took off with the publication of the Heyerdahl's book of the voyage and an Oscar-winning film in 1950. The actual completion of the trip saw little more than a few news reports appearing in the Guardian, such as the following from August 12 1947.

(click to enlarge)


  1. Hi !

    Thank you for recall the name of Knut Haugland and the crew of Kon-Tiki.

    I read all Heyerdahl's books and went to Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo.
    I've remembered Tim Severin's journey too.

    Happy New Year !!!

  2. Thanks - glad you found this of interest.

    Happy New Year