Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The name “Kon-Tiki” commemorates a legendary chief to whom Polynesians accorded the status of an ancestral deity that originally brought them to the islands. The word symbolizes the theory and the adventure behind crossing the Pacific Ocean on a balsa raft, and it is the name given to the raft constructed by Thor Heyerdahl and his five selected companions. Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft is less an autobiography, though filled with personal experiences, than the story of a raft alone upon the vast Pacific, from when it left the coast of Peru on April 28, 1947, until it ran aground in Polynesia on August 7, 1947, some 4,300 miles later.

The book tells of an amazing vessel, upon which the fate and experiences of its crew seem almost incidental even if totally dependent. Heyerdahl and his team felled twelve giant balsa trees in the Ecuadorian rain forest at Quevado, constructed the raft following native lore and Spanish conquistador descriptions in the naval base at Callao, Peru, sailed across the equatorial Pacific, grounded the raft on Raroia reef in the Tuamotu archipelago and towed it to Tahiti, embarked by cargo vessel back to Norway, and established a permanent Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.

Admittedly, Kon-Tiki required human creation and human navigation, but once the raft was operational, the crew went where Kon-Tiki took them. While they could minimally steer the raft relative to ocean current and wind in their...

(The entire section is 455 words.)