cover image Kon-Tiki Man

Kon-Tiki Man

Chronicle Books, Thor Heyerdahl, Christopher Ralling. Chronicle Books, $35 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0026-6

In late 1936 explorer Heyerdahl set out from Norway for an island in the South Seas called Fatu Hiva. Eschewing the complications and corruptions of the civilized world, Heyerdahl planned to immerse himself in the ``great anthropological mysteries'' of Polynesia while living like a ``primitive man . . . with keen instincts and all his senses alive.'' Circumstances conspired against Heyerdahl's idealistic notions, prompting him to return to Norway in early 1938. Yet his studies on the island helped give birth to the idea that Polynesia had been settled by people migrating by water from South America rather than from the west, as was commonly believed. Following Heyerdahl's voyage from Peru to Polynesia aboard the raft Kon-Tiki, this spirited volume highlights the explorer's attempt to prove his theory. The book also details his scouting, on subsequent expeditions, of ``a link between cultures of Central America and those which had developed on the Nile, the Euphrates and . . . in the Indus Valley.'' Using extensive excerpts from Heyerdahl's own books, Ralling ( The Voyage of Charles Darwin ) has fashioned a stimulating chronicle of curiosity and wanderlust. Illustrated. (Oct.)