Generation Gap

A young crew's unsolemn re-creation of the legendary Kon-Tiki expedition

Sep 28, 2006
Outside Magazine

WHEN WE LAST VISITED OLAV HEYERDAHL (December 2005), the 29-year-old Lillehammer native was joining a crew that aimed to replicate his grandfather Thor's famous 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition, in which the Norwegian adventurer and five crew members floated 4,300 miles on a balsa-wood raft from Peru to Polynesia to prove a point about human migration. Olav and his shipmates finally put their boat, the Tangaroa, to sea on April 28. DAVID CASE checked in with expedition leader Torgeir Higraff via e-mail 75 days later, as the raft drifted 500 miles east of Tahiti, to find out how the float was measuring up to its predecessor. The crew, which had consumed some 35 bottles of wine since departing, seemed content. "The Kon-Tiki wanted to be as close as possible to prehistoric conditions," wrote Higraff. "Since they'd already done that, we thought we might as well bring along some creature comforts to keep us happy."

Raft size, in square feet
Kon-Tiki: 1,130
Tangaroa: 1,464

Kon-Tiki: Two-way radio
Tangaroa: Satellite antennae

Continents from which calls to raft originated
Kon-Tiki: 0
Tangaroa: 6

Macintosh computers on board
Kon-Tiki: 0
Tangaroa: 3

World Cup matches watched
Kon-Tiki: 0
Tangaroa: 1 (France vs. Italy)

Responses when seeing a shark
Kon-Tiki: Play tug-of-war, kill it
Tangaroa: Photograph it

Attacks by 160-pound tuna on crew members hanging over the stern to answer nature's call
Kon-Tiki: 1
Tangaroa: 0

Americans killed in previous year by headhunters in region of Ecuador where balsa logs were cut
Kon-Tiki: 10
Tangaroa: 0

Polar Bearing It
This past July, after 62 days by canoe and skis, Minnesotans Lonnie Dupre, 45, and Eric Larsen, 35, became the first people to trek to the North Pole in summer, when warm temperatures turn the Arctic into a deadly stew of slush, fog, crushing ice blocks, and feeding bears. JOHN BRADLEY recently caught up with Dupre about the Greenpeace-sponsored trip.

OUTSIDE: Why try this?
I wouldn't even have attempted it if it wasn't for a good cause. But our site was get–ting thousands of hits a week, so we were getting the message out about global warming and the plight of the polar bear.

Any surprises?
We figured that the ice would improve as we got farther north. But we were actually using our boats more and more. The perimeter of the Arctic is melting, so the center ice isn't pressed together like it should be. It's alarming.

How about bears?
We only saw one, on the very last day. It was amazing, like he was coming by to thank us for what we were doing.

What's next?
A book. Then whatever my wife tells me.

Filed To: Culture

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