In the wake of Heyerdahl

On 28 April, the Norwegian Tangaroa Expedition will be departing from Callao, Peru. Travelling on a vessel from antiquity, the crew of the balsa raft plans to test long-forgotten sailing techniques and otherwise investigate life in the Pacific.

Nearly 60 years ago, Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific on his balsa raft, the Kon-Tiki. The Kon-Tiki Expedition lasted for 101 days and proved that it was possible to sail from South America to Polynesia on a balsa raft. The first Norwegian expedition since 1947 is not going to copy old feats, but rather find out more about life in the sea during the three months set aside for the expedition.

Grandson to build the raft

In 2003, Thor Heyerdahl's grandson, Olav Heyerdahl, went to Ecuador to find the right balsa logs for the Tangaroa Expedition. As a result of the over-exploitation of the rain forests, the expedition has chosen to buy its logs from a balsa plantation instead of cutting down wild balsa like Thor Heyerdahl did. The grandson has personally marked, felled and shipped timber from the balsa plantation to Peru, where the raft is being built. The building site is the same as in 1947, that is, the naval base in Callao outside Lima.

Heyerdahl is looking forward to the trip, and is excited about following in the wake of his grandfather. "This is not a copy of the Kon-Tiki raft; it's the raft my grandfather would have built today", he remarks.


The Tangaroa Expedition will make scientific investigations en route. Among other things, they will be examining water pollution to determine how it affects the ability of animals and plants to reproduce in the world's largest ocean. Tangaroa means 'God of the seas'.

"Oil spills usually attract a great deal of attention since the oil is so visible, making it easy to understand that oil spills are detrimental for the environment. Contamination that is not visible to the naked eye is worse, and it also has a serious impact on plant and animal life in the sea", according to Dag Oppen-Berntsen, the science officer on the expedition.

Consequently, the Tangaroa Expedition will try to learn more about 'invisible' pollution. They are planning to study the marine food chain and find out how the pollution affects life in the ocean.

Online across the Pacific

At the Kon-Tiki Museum on Bygdøy in Oslo, visitors can experience the thrill of balsa from the past. The Kon-Tiki raft dominates the well-lit premises. You can almost smell the coarse, wet wood. Soon the public will be able to follow the new Tangaroa Expedition from the museum.

Using advanced information technology, the Kon-Tiki Museum will be showing pictures and films and telling about the expedition thanks to satellite transmissions from the Pacific.

You can look forward to more information about the research results from this exciting expedition in Nysgjerrigper Magazine no. 4/06.