Anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl had a controversial theory that the ancient people of South America were able to sail across the Pacific Ocean on rafts. In 1947 he chose to prove the theory by building a raft from balsa, outfitting it with five inexperienced crew members and sailing 4300 miles from Peru to Polynesia using ocean currents.
His story is told in the Norwegian film, “Kon-Tiki”, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Award and Golden Globes in 2013.
A free screening of “Kon-Tiki” will be shown at 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 18 at Star Hall. The screening is made available through the Utah Film Circuit: Moab, an initiative of the Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center. The monthly series feature award-winning dramatic and documentary films from around the world.
“This month’s film is a feature that lends itself well to the cinematic experience. ‘Kon-Tiki’ is a roller coaster adventure full of thundering seas and enormously menacing fish. It follows Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl as he crosses the Pacific ocean in a balsa wood raft in 1947,” said Sallie Hodges from Utah Film Center: Moab.
Jessie Magleby from the Grand County Public Library said the movie will appeal to anyone who likes adventure.
“And perhaps especially to all Moab’s land-bound boaters who are pining for sunshine and blue water,” she said.
Heyerdahl didn’t know how to swim when he set out on his voyage. The raft was made from balsa logs, bamboo, mangrove wood, reeds and hemp. No metal was used in the construction. His goal was to show that South Americans from 500 B.C. could sail the distance with the materials and technologies available at the time.
The crew left Peru on April 28, 1947. Their first sight of land was the Puka-Puka atoll on July 30. They arrived at the Angatau atoll on Aug. 4, 4300 miles from Peru.
Heyerdahl believed that the inhabitants of Easter Island were descendents from Peruvian migrants who sailed in 500 B.C. He pointed the large statues found on the island, known as moai, stating that they resembled pre-Columbian Peruvian design. Most historians of the day, however, considered the island to be Polynesian.
In 2011, Erik Thorsby from the University of Oslo was able to present DNA evidence that stated that the inhabitants were Polynesian, but there was also a distinctive genetic mark from South America as well.
Thor Heyerdahl’s documentary about the voyage won an Oscar in 1951 and is to date the only Norwegian film to be awarded an Oscar. His book “The Kon-Tiki Expedition: by Raft Across the South Seas” was translated into 70 languages and sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
Free screening of feature film open to the public
“’Kon-Tiki’ is a rollercoaster adventure full of thundering seas and enormously menacing fish. It follows Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl as he crosses the Pacific ocean in a balsa wood raft in 1947.”
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 18
Where: Star Hall, 125 E. Center St.
Cost: Free screening, made available through Utah Film Center: Moab and the Grand County Public Library