The Lighter Side

Donald V. Mehus

Concerning the recent article in NAW commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of the celebrated Norwegian scientist and explorer-sailor, Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914—April 18, 2002), who was noted above all for boldly sailing his hand-made balsa wooden raft across the vast Pacific Ocean some sixty-five years ago, our readers may find the following item that I once came across of some interest.

Thor Heyerdahl’s famous expedition with his handmade balsa wood Kon-Tiki raft took place in 1947. The 101-day voyage with five fellow adventurers extended some 5,000 miles across the broad Pacific Ocean, from Peru to the Polynesian Islands. Heyerdahl strove to prove that it was possible that peoples centuries ago could have traversed the Pacific in just such balsa wood rafts, on much the same sea-route from Peru to the Polynesian Islands.

Heyerdahl’s thesis and his successful Pacific expedition (supported by his archaeological finds and various scientific studies) were met among responsible authorities with both skepticism and approbation. In the midst of all the controversy there appeared the following cartoon in a nationally-read American magazine, touching on the wonderment felt by many.

In the cartoon we see two ocean-going balsa crafts, each similar to Kon-Tiki, passing by each other in mid-ocean, each propelled by strong winds, but the two passing crafts are incredulously going in opposite directions. The captain of the one craft calls out to the captain of the other vessel: “What theory are you trying to prove?”

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.