After World War II, Thor Heyerdahl and his signal corps buddies arranged an adventure of a quieter, calmer, lower tech sort. After arranging backing for their research project, the Kon-Tiki, they went down to South America, and built a raft from balsa logs and sailed it across the Pacific.

For more than a century scientists had debated as to whether balsa rafts were seaworthy, and to what extent it might have been possible for the aboriginal inhabitants of South America to have contributed to the peopling of the Pacific islands. The experts had finally concluded that the balsa raft was water absorbent and therefore compelled to hug the home coast where it could be beached at intervals and dried out in the sun. It was also argued that low deck of an open raft would be unprotected in the high sea, and furthermore, that the balsa raft would dissolve as soon as the big logs started chafing on the rope lashing that held the craft together. Due to the general disregard for the former means of navigation in ancient South America, it had already been agreed, for practical reasons, Polynesia could only have been reached from direction of Asia, until the arrival of European ships.

Their super old-school adventure was to set out to test Heyerdahl’s theory of the settlement of the South Pacific Islands. There is more information at the Kon-Tiki Museum.

The object of the expedition was to test the sea-going abilities of the South American balsa raft, and to investigate whether it would have been practically possible for the original native population of Peru, the Incas and their remarkably cultured predecessors, to have reached the islands out in the open Pacific.

There is a video for download, and the book was a good read.