April 30, 2011

A vivid figure from my youth...

Last Crew Member on Kon-Tiki Expedition Dies:

...Knut Haugland was a Norwegian wartime hero and by the time he met Heyerdahl had already had a lifetime's worth of adventures. He had learned radio communications in the military, had become involved in the Norwegian resistance movement and had sabotaged a German heavy-water plant. He escaped the Gestapo twice and received countless medals of decoration for his bravery and war record.

And then he joined up with Heyerdahl for this adventure. Despite the reliance on primitive technology - the raft was built based on drawings dating back to the time of the conquistadores - the expedition allowed itself the luxury of a hand-cranked radio. Haugland spent much of the 101 days at sea briefing the outside world.

The balsawood raft was made without a single nail, screw or rivet, just like it would have been in ancient times. The boat had a single steering oar to control its direction, a small cabin, a mangrove wood mast and 2 sails.

The crew's diet consisted of fish, coconut milk, water kept in bamboo containers and the occasional shark. As one crewman said " We ate them before they ate us should we slip from the planks."

The trip took 101 days and and finally crashed into a reef in the Tuanotu Islands of French Polynesia. They had proved that the migration route was possible and that a raft could make it across the Pacific...

What a thrilling and charming book that was. Well, still is, I'm sure. I may re-read it. I was maybe 12 years old when I discovered it. I remember being amazed at how they would catch sharks by holding out whole fish and when the shark grabbed the fish and dived, its tail would flick up, and they'd grab it and pull! The shark's loose intestines would move towards its head, and it would loose consciousness. Then they could haul it aboard, and run for safety as it came awake and started snapping and biting.

The other fascinating thing about the sharks is that they could bite off half of a whole tuna, without the slightest tugging or worrying. they'd just slice right through.

Posted by John Weidner at April 30, 2011 5:29 PM
Weblog by John Weidner