By Thor Heyerdahl
Leader of the Kon-Tiki Pacific Raft Expedition
North American Newspaper Alliance
Raroia Reef, Tuamotu Archipelago, Aug. 7 (delayed) - The Kon-Tiki Raft
is on the reef here. The six of us who were its crew are safe and unhurt
on an uninhabited island.
This marks the conclusion - and, as such, the success- of our expedition
that set out April 28 from Peru to drift across the Pacific, as pre-Inca
voyagers are believed to have drifted from South America to Polynesia.
In the nearly fifteen weeks we have made the drift of more than 4,000 miles
in the flow of the Peruvian (Humboldt) and South Equatorial Currents.
After three days of trying to get around long, low Raroia Reef, a spot
French Tuamotu Islands at about Latitude 16.30 South and 144.3 West-
we finally were drawn right in among the coral rocks. As there was no choice
left to us, we directed the raft right into the roaring twenty-five-foot waves that
broke in the area. All men were ordered to cling to the basic nine logs that form
the body of the raft. When 600 yards from shore, we grounded on a low, half
submerged mass of coral. Giant breakers came in and threw us onto other rocks,
each a little closer to shore.
The balsa-wood raft was taking an awful beating. Our hut was smashed to
and our hardwood mast was carried away. The steering oar went, and the
cross logs from the stern and the bow.
But the main logs held together, and we all clung to them, hoping for a
to leap from them to some protruding coral and make our way along them to shore.
Finally our chance came. We jumped onto some sharply pointed coral, along
which we made our way 500 yards to shore. We are still there, on a tiny
We have made several trips out to the marooned logs which constitute the
remains of our raft, and have rescued most of our equipment. We also have
our water and food supplies, and we are sleeping under the large Kin-Tiki sail-
now stretched between two trees.
We will try to get the remaining logs into some quiet lagoon near here,
possibly we will be able to find some natives who can help us salvage the remains.
We are all in good condition and feel thankful that we have been able to
save such things as food, water and an improvised radio.
Made Landfall on July 30
The Kon-Tiki Raft party reported first sighting land- Pukapuka Island in
the Tuamotas- on July 30. It drifted about 260 miles more before hitting
The expedition left the port of Callao, Peru, on April 28 with the avowed
purpose of testing the theory of its leader, Thor Heyerdahl, 32-year-old
ethnologist, that the Pacific islands were originally settled by migrating
peoples from prehistoric America.
The fifteen-ton raft was set adrift in the Peruvian (Humboldt) and South
Equatorial Currents, which sweep near the Peruvian coast on a swing
northward and then westward through the Pacific. The raft was designed to
reassemble as closely as possible rafts used by the prehistoric inhabitants of
Peru. It was constructed of logs of balsa wood and bamboo lashed together
The voyage, which involved several encounters with sharks and at least
severe storms, reached the half-way mark of its journey of 4,000 miles on
June 11, when it reported a position 108 degrees West, 6 degrees 20 minutes
Dr. Heyerdahl was accompanied by five Scandinavian scientists, among them
Lieut. Kurt Haugland, formerly of Norway's underground forces, who
received the British Distinguished Service Order for his part in sabotaging the
heavy-water plant at Rjukan in Norway during the war and took part in
campaigns in Arctic Norway.
Other members of the party were Herman Watziner, second in command,
who directed the building of the raft; Bengt Danielsson, Swedish sociologist
and ethnologist; Erik Hesselberg, navigating officer, and Torstein Raaby,
writer, painter and photographer.
Kon-Tiki was the name given to the Sun God by the ancient Peruvians.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company