Kon-Tiki; Extreme Academia

I watched the documentary Kon Tiki last night. I recall my folks taking me to see both this and Heyerdahl's other documentary, The Ra Expeditions. Both made an impression that stuck with me all these years. The men in these films seem like ordinary academics - the kind you'd meet in the halls of any university in the U.S. - and yet they did amazingly dangerous things, all in the name of knowledge.

Kon-Tiki is grainy, shot by amateurs, and somewhat disjointed, but it's a testament to the spirit of exploration. It won the documentary Oscar in 1951, and it still holds up pretty well today. I recommend watching it if you want to be reminded of how low your adventure quotient is...

Thor Heyerdahl and five other men sailed a balsa wood raft from Callao, Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands - a voyage of over 4300 miles. They had no support boats, no chase aircraft, and only a ham radio and an inflatable dinghy as a life raft should things go badly. All the human crew members survived (the Amazon Parrot who joined them got washed overboard in a squall and was lost around the 60th day of the journey).

The expedition was undertaken to prove that it was possible for people in pre-Columbian times to reach and possibly colonize Polynesia. The raft was constructed using materials and techniques available at that time (see scale model at right) and it did prove that such a voyage was possible, even if it never actually happened in period.

That's right - they risked their lives to test an anthropological hypothesis. And not even to prove that it happened, just to see if it was possible. I fear that this spirit is dead today.

Today, this expedition would be televised by Discovery. There would be 15 cameras, chase boats, GPS locators, and on-board WiFi. The boat would have RedBull and Nike banners all over it, and the crew would be munching Clif Bars. Worst of all, the events would be edited to make better television, and there would be virtually no chance of anyone dying. In short, it wouldn't be an adventure - it would be reality TV. And that is sad.

I need to find an adventure like this. I am so bored with the safety of our consumer paradise. Maybe I should start building a raft...

10 comments:

becca said...

I don't think of myself as particularly adventurous, but last year I decided to take a trip just to see if it was possible; a trip that everyone I knew thought was crazy because no one had done it before. It wasn't sailing half-way around the world in a rickety boat, but rather rafting in a rubber inner-tube down a river, but still, it felt great. The trip turned out to be possible (but take much longer than we had planned for) and people here still think I'm a bit crazy for it . . .

Adventure is possible, you just have to get an idea and not be afraid when people tell you that they think you're crazy.

Teh Dr. said...

With your academic focus though, any matching adventure might lead you to places on your "map of human sexual practices" that you don't want to go.

Poet Abroad said...

Now why can't I do something that cool? All the more motivation for me to drive to New Mexico and live in my car... but that's probably been done before.

His Sinfulness said...

Becca,

I'll let you know when I get my idea...

His Sinfulness said...

Teh Dr.

I will be posting that little tidbit next - I hope to shock and horrify many with my stickpin placement... :D

His Sinfulness said...

Poet Abroad,

The Honda Element is an excellent car to live in - plenty of room, lots of windows. Better than the last apartment I had in Cali... :)

Sci Fi Heroine said...

I offered to build you a raft, but you said no...something about Wyoming lacking an ocean. Whatever. When you find your adventure, I'll be there. :)

the only bagel in france said...

I believe Google has raft directions across the Pacific, if you're interested. Let's see if the Denver Zoo would lend you a tiger.

Mayren said...

i'd suggest a Training-ish adventure first to get your feet wet. Like going to Cali in the summer vs a holiday to soak up your favorite west coasty goodness.... THEN let inspiration fly you away to some Tibetan magickal getaway to renew your spirit with your Lady of greatness by your side....

His Sinfulness said...

Thanks folks - I know now that I am supported in my desire to do something exciting/foolish. The Flock, it is awesome!

Post a Comment