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The Kon-Tiki Expedition

Proof That Ancient People Could Have Migrated from South America to Polynesia by Sea

Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer. Contrary to popular opinion, he believed that ancient people had the ability to travel long distances by sea using wind and ocean currents in order to make contact with other cultures.

In 1947, in order to test his theory, Thor organized the Kon-Tiki expedition. The name Kon-Tiki refers to the ancient solar deity Con Ticci Viracocha, a wisdom bringer who took the Religion of the Sun to South America. Thor Heyerdahl was very interested in the legends of Viracocha as narrated by the local peoples in Central and South America, and came to the conclusion that Viracocha was a real person who had travelled by boat to South America, and had left by boat – journeying on to Polynesia where a wisdom bringer with similar appearance and name (Tici/Tiki) was described as arriving. Thor did a lot of research regarding ancient sites connected to the lost civilization of the sun, mainly through the field of experimental-archaeology.


As part of the Kon-Tiki expedition, Thor’s team built a traditional Peruvian balsa wood raft, which is what Viracocha is likely to have departed for Polynesia in. Then Thor, along with five other crew members, with no support boat, and equipped only with a few navigational tools and 275 gallons (1,040 liters) of water, set out to journey from Peru to Polynesia. Their trip lasted 101 days, and covered 4,300 miles (6900 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean.

This journey depicts what Viracocha and the disciples that accompanied him would likely have faced in taking spiritual knowledge to peoples throughout the world.

A documentary filmed during the Kon-Tiki journey won an oscar in 1951, and Thor’s book narrating the voyage sold more than 50 million copies around the world.

The documentary can be purchased or streamed on Amazon. 

About the author

David Arkyn


  • The trailer for the video is here:

    I look forward to watching the whole thing. In the trailer they depict the landing, and show how the natives recognize the boat as similar to the ones from legend that landed there.

    In school, history seemed so dead and boring, I wish it was taught with more of the mysteries and an open mind. The more I learn about history, the more I find out people really have no idea about our past, and the ‘common narrative’ is contradicted by evidence at every turn.

    • Now this is worth showing up to history class for 😉 So neat how the Polynesians recognized the type of vessel as one their ancestors used! Thanks for resurfacing this, Julian. I think we’ll give it a watch someday soon.

  • Thanks for posting this David. It was really inspiring to see him and the crew get out and actually prove that it was possible to make the journey in this way from start to finish. Besides the relevance to the lost civilization of the sun that it has, I thought it was also a great story and example of perseverance and determination.

  • Also saw the 2012 expedition. Cool that people are still inspired by the original voyage and that these things are done again. I did find the original expedition much more interesting for various reasons.

    Just on the ecological side, the sea back than just seemed so much more healthy than it does now…
    I came across some science TV episode recently which asked if because of man’s great impact upon the Earth if we had actually entered a new geological epoch, one that started with the detonation of the first nuclear weapon. The ‘Anthropocene’ as they call it, nicely summarised in the first two minutes here.

  • What an incredible journey. There are already so many sources showing these historic voyages to have happened, with archaeological evidence, genetic testing, linguistics, study of plants, and of course the cultural narratives that speak of the travels of the people who took the religion of the sun with them, but it really adds another dimension to actually see this expedition being made in real life and visually experience what it might have been like.

    As a side note, I’m really in awe of how resourceful these sailors were and how well they adapted to all the challenges of the voyage.

  • Watching this documentary is fascinating to me. I grew up knowing about this expedition but didn’t have much interest in learning more about it then. The courage it must have taken to go on this journey is incredible, as well as the strength and faith needed to make it happen.

    There was also a movie made about this, a few years back.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Anne Linn. I watched this yesterday (can get it on Google Play), but I wasn’t really impressed to be honest. I think it may have been dramatized a lot to try and make it more epic, and it gives a totally different feel to the black and white version. It’s quite strongly emotional (and there is one disturbing scene with a shark) and not inspiring in the same way.

      Good to have watched it though 🙂 I’ve watched the video of the 2012 expedition as well now and the black and white version is the best and most inspiring hands down!

  • I never would’ve thought I’d say this as a child about a black and white documentary film but how exciting and thrilling this is!!! I was just surprised so many times, what an adventure!

    Haha, the first morning task: “There were no roast chickens flying around, but other delicacies presented themselves with no effort on our part, such as succulent flying fish! The cook’s first task every morning was to take his frying pan and walk around the deck picking all the flying fish that had landed on the deck overnight.” It seems the natural world is so amazing, and the sea and nature provides is such an amazing way.

    I hadn’t thought there were so many creatures in the open sea like that. It reminds of when I was staying in a tent near a forest edge forest some time. At night I would hear so many different creatures in the forest, many more than I would’ve thought you actually be able to perceive.

    This expedition is also amazing in that one person can say one thing on the internet nowadays and another person something else. But this is a different calibre of showing something. Really go out there, in that way someone with opposing beliefs really doesn’t stand on much.

    Also, this trip of theirs is beautiful. Like an adventure on our own planet. Makes you want to go out there and do similar things 🙂 But these guys seem very educated, where their education from books still translates to practice as well.

    Thanks so much for posting this one. I had never heard of this documentary. But the history on these pacific islands and their link to South America, it’s all got a particular sense of ‘pacific island’ mystery to it. I would love to go back a few thousand years in time and see what’s going on, but maybe some of these things can still be uncovered today and its deeper mystery experienced.

    • It’s interesting what you say about the internet making communication easy. Imagine what it must have been like when to talk to other people (who were only 5,000 miles away) you would have to get on a raft for 100 days and brave that voyage.

  • An amazing film! It is incredible what the Kon-tiki expedition achieved. But the attitude of the sailors stands out even more so. They have a strength and an ability to face difficulties that is seldom seen today, and that unfortunately seems almost lost to our society.

  • It’s amazing seeing how people rediscover the ways ancient civilizations were exploring the world. Because that for me connects the dots of how these civilizations developed themselves and where they were focused on.

    That example with Kon-Tiki reminds me the myths/history of ancient Greeks how they could possible travel long distances from sea using ocean currents and it make sence.
    Thanks for posting it!

  • This is a great account of Thor Heyerdahl’s real life experience of recreating the journey reported to have been made by Viracocha. The fact that he actually retraced the journey using a similar vessel makes it totally plausible that this journey could have been made many years previously.

    I think that this type of experiential archaeological expedition adds weight to his theory, as it demonstrates that the practical matter of actually undertaking the journey is replicable. Of course, the speculation around the nature of Viracocha himself is more difficult to verify to a wider audience scientifically, but on a personal level, even this can be investigated by more esoteric means, such as out-of-body experiences.

    Thor’s expedition reminds me of similar attempts to recreate magnificent structures such as the Great Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge. However, in those cases I recall that the researchers had a lot of difficulty in completing their task. I think those examples show that there is a lot of wisdom from the past that is now lost.

    In fact, I had never previously heard of Thor’s expedition and its subsequent documentary and written account, which made me reflect on how easily and quickly knowledge can be forgotten. The expedition took place only 70 years ago and received considerable recognition with the Oscar award and book sales of over 50 million copies. And yet this information was previously unknown to me.

  • This is quite amazing really – experience is really everything, and this expedition shows that it was totally possible for people back then to have traveled far and back between the continents, and gives credence and support to the history and legends of the ‘wisdom bringers’ around the world. Truly fascinating, and thought-provoking.

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