Last Crew Member on Kon-Tiki Expedition Dies


Image from Yachtpals

A great adventurer and wartime resistance fighter, Knut Haugland, has died. He was the last living crew member of the Kon Tiki: the man-made raft that set out from Peru in April, 1947 to prove that people from South America crossed the Pacific to get to Polynesia.

Thor Heyerdahl was the explorer who decided to build a replica of the original balsa wood raft and he was skipper, along with 5 crew and a parrot, on the 6,000 kilometre journey. He died in 2002 and now Haugland, who was one of the two radio operators on board has died.


Image from the Telegraph/AP

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.


Image from Deseret News: The crew in 1947

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.

His was a life of bravery and great adventure; they don't make them like that anymore.

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