Once again a dim and distant memory has surfaced from the mysterious depths of my mind, not unlike a strange creature rising from the deepest part of the ocean. It happened when I was reading an article in the newest issue of Smithsonian magazine. It seems that someone has produced a new movie about the voyage of the Kon-Tiki, an event that was originally celebrated in film and print more than a half-century back.
For those who’ve forgotten, Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian adventurer who believed that the South Pacific islands of Polynesia had originally been populated by ancient travelers from South America. To help prove his theory he enlisted several additional Scandinavians and built a large raft to set sail from Peru and try to duplicate the voyage he thought ancient explorers had taken.
Although the group didn’t quite reach their goal, they traveled over 4,000 miles and got close enough to consider the whole thing a success. And even if Heyerdahl’s theory has pretty much been discounted in the years since, the 1947 trip was a feel-good story for a world still reeling from the effects of World War II, and it made him an international celebrity. He followed up with a filmed documentary, and a book that became a huge best-seller with world-wide sales of 50 million copies — and finally we get to my reawakened memory.
I’ve mentioned in earlier pieces that as a boy I sometimes took the train to visit my paternal grandparents for a week or so in the big city (Ridin’ The Rails To Detroit City). Those days came back to me when I read that comment in the article because I clearly remember that my grandparents had that book, and — as a bored kid with nothing much to do anyway — I eagerly devoured it. I don’t remember much after that, but I’d be willing to bet that the Kon-Tiki Kid managed to enjoy plenty of South Pacific fantasies during the rest of his visit.