Thor Heyerdahl Harry Gilroy - Essay

Harry Gilroy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The saga of "Kon-Tiki"] is a revelation of how exciting science can become when it inspires a man with the heart of Leif Ericsson and the merry story-telling gift of an Ernie Pyle….

[The six men on the raft came to learn that] whether it was 1947 A.D. or B.C. was of no significance. "We realized that life had been full for men before the technical age also—in fact, fuller and richer in many ways than the life of modern man."

Here is the heart of the powerful appeal of this book…. These are cultivated modern men, scientists, artists, technicians. They have a particular quality, which is that an idea can have such value to them that they are willing to stake their lives upon its validity….

[They] have this quality and they arm the reader with it as he goes along on the unpretentiously daring escapades, the low comedy and high philosophizing of the voyage. The thought of six intelligent men putting out to sea on a raft held together with a few ropes—practically guaranteeing the sharks a fat meal—is utterly absurd. Yet the absurdity fades in the face of the realization that the expedition proved, and proved in the only possible way, exactly how the races of men spread across the seas of the world.

Harry Gilroy, "Six Who Dared to Live a Legend," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1950 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 3, 1950, p. 1.