Kon-Tiki is the Academy Award-winning film of an astonishing adventure, a journey spanning 4300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, Norwegian biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by the mythical hero Kon-Tiki. He knew that the trade winds and ocean currents off the South-American coastline bear in the direction of Polynesia. It was Heyerdahl’s contention that pre-Columbian Polynesian natives had regularly made trips across the ocean in similar rafts. To prove his theory, in 1947 Heyerdahl set sail in the Kon-Tiki, a tiny balsa-wood raft, successfully completing the long journey from Peru to Tahiti. Filmed en route with 16-millimeter camera equipment, Kon-Tiki was originally released in Sweden in tandem with the publication of Heyerdahl’s book about the expedition.
In the middle of the 20th century, Thor Heyerdahl’s name was synonymous with the word “adventurer.” The Norwegian biologist-explorer became world famous after his remarkable four-month voyage to prove his theory that ancient South American natives could have populated Polynesia by sailing across the Pacific. As the scientific community watched in horror – certain that Heyerdahl was both foolish and suicidal –Heyerdahl and his five crewmates supervised the creation of an aboriginal balsa wood raft (made with no nails or rivets). Then, with only trade winds and currents to provide power, they set sail from Peru and spent 101 suspenseful days on the open sea, alone amid raging storms, whales, and countless sharks before landing on the Polynesian island of Raroia, their expedition then being hailed as one of the most fantastic feats of daring and courage of its time.
The film record shot on board became a spellbinding documentary narrated by the low-key Heyerdahl. His book about the voyage was translated into 67 languages and sold over 20 million copies, and the film won the 1951 Oscar for Best Documentary. Heyerdahl went on to later journeys (including another voyage in the ship Ra) and discoveries, but this uncluttered black-and-white film delivers thrills all these years after the voyage. Young explorers age 8 and older will most certainly get caught up in the excitement.
The Kon-Tiki raft is now exhibited at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway, where it is seen by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
Running time: 124 minutes