Oslo’s Kon-Tiki Museum appeals to your spirit of adventure

Thor Heyerdahl had something to prove and he succeeded using primitive boats, Kon-Tiki and Ra-2, on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Thor Heyerdahl's Ra II boat sailed across the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados (Via Wikipedia)

OSLO, Norway, June 4, 2016 – Whenever I hear travelers say, “I don’t like museums,” I am at the ready to challenge them. What they really mean is that they don’t like certain types of museums. Today, five destinations immediately come to mind that will appeal to even the most hardened museum cynic.

The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, is a showcase of both the summer and winter games over the last century. The Museum of Transportation in York, England, features trains, trolleys, buses and any other means of mobility from the U.K.’s past. In Stockholm, the Wasa Museum is a three-story, virtually complete Swedish warship dating to 1626 that was salvaged from the bottom of the harbor in the 1960s. And then there are the outdoor ruins of Pompeii, once a thriving port city near Naples that was smothered by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway (wikipedia)
Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway (Wikipedia)

Oslo, Norway, is home to another such venue, which is guaranteed to become a topic of dinner conversation following any tour that includes it.

The Kon-Tiki Museum captures the imagination of everyone who visits, especially appealing to the “little boy” spirit of adventure that lives within the soul almost every male on the planet.

Here, in a single setting, visitors discover the story of Norwegian explorer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl who set out to learn more about the wanderlust spirit of primitive man’s search for new worlds. Guests can also experience the original vessels used during Heyerdahl’s amazing expeditions: the Kon-Tiki, Ra, Tigris, Easter Island, Fatu-Hiva, Tucume and Galapagos. There is a cave tour as well, plus an underwater exhibit and a life-size model of a whale shark.

The Kon-Tiki was the balsa raft Heyerdahl used to sail across the Pacific to Polynesia (wikipedia)
The Kon-Tiki was the balsa raft Heyerdahl used to sail across the Pacific to Polynesia (Wikipedia)

What makes the Kon-Tiki Museum so appealing is that it’s the kind of place you already know a little bit about from magazine articles or television programs, though not much more. Then, when you see it up-close-and-personal, it becomes an eyebrow-raising source of discovery. Suddenly, what was supposed to be a 15-minute break in your itinerary turns into a two- or three-hour love affair filled with curiosity and wonder.

Thor Heyerdahl (wikipedia)
Thor Heyerdahl (Wikipedia)

Heyerdahl’s first expedition began on April 28, 1947, on a balsa raft called Kon-Tiki. With five other crew members, Heyerdahl began his quest from Callao, Peru, sailing across the Pacific Ocean to the Polynesian Islands with the purpose of proving it was possible for people in pre-Columbian times to have settled Polynesia from South America.

The “pre-Columbian era” is the time preceding the first voyage of Columbus in 1492.

Heyerdahl used only materials and technologies available to the people of that time, attempting to prove that there were no technical reasons that would have prevented them from undertaking a successful voyage.

Ra II was constructed of reeds (wikipedia)
Ra II was constructed of reeds (Wikipedia)

Though the 1947 expedition did sail with some modern equipment, Heyedahl’s argument was that the technologies they possessed had nothing to do with the physical proof that a primitive raft could complete the journey.

Sailing that vessel built of balsa logs and other native materials first recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadors, the sextet of adventurers were at sea for 101 days, covering 4,300 miles before crashing on a reef in the Tuamotu Islands.

Heyerdahl quote from his Kon-Tiki voyage (wikipedia)
Heyerdahl quote from his Kon-Tiki voyage (Wikipedia)

Their re-created indigenous craft was built from nine balsa tree trunks lashed together with hemp roping. Cross-pieces of balsa logs added support, and pine splash-boards covered the bow. The main-mast was built from mangrove wood to form an A-frame, while behind the main-mast was a bamboo cabin 14 feet long and 8 feet wide. The steering oar was also made of mangrove, with the rudder blade built out of fir.

Initial supplies consisted of 275 gallons of drinking water stored in 56 water cans. For food, the team relied on flying fish, dolphin fish, yellowfin tuna, bonito and shark, which were plentiful enough to catch during the voyage. Other provisions included 200 coconuts, sweet potatoes, bottle gourds and an assortment of fruit.

Ra II sailed in 1970 after a first attempt the year before was abandoned (wikipedia)
Ra II sailed in 1970 after a first attempt the year before was abandoned (Wikipedia)

Some 23 years later, in May of 1970, Heyerdahl challenged the Atlantic Ocean by sailing from Morocco on a course for Barbados in a reed boat called Ra II. A year earlier, the Norwegian explorer had attempted the same experiment but was forced to abandon the project, falling short by only a week.

Overhead view of Heyerdahl's first boat, the Kon-Tiki (wikipedia)
Overhead rendering of Heyerdahl’s first boat, the Kon-Tiki (Wikipedia)

The 1970 expedition with its eight-man crew was at sea for 57 days for a distance of 3,270 nautical miles. Using wall paintings of papyrus vessels from Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and Central and South America as his source, Heyerdahl had the added vision of demonstrating that people from differing cultures and religions could work together to accomplish a common goal.

The Kon-Tiki Museum is a showcase of wonder, awe and adventure. But don’t bother to visit if you “don’t like museums.”


About the author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award- winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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