A man amongst men


When it’s just you and your hand-picked crew of five, along with the stars in the skies, and enough provisions for 100 days and nights on a balsa wood raft, with no sign of land yet the occasional presence of a blood-thirsty whale shark swimming around your boat,you get to thinking about your place in the cosmos.   Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian adventurer and skipper tested his belief that ancient people in the Pacific Ocean could have made long voyages from South America centuries earlier. This would mean that widely separated ancient people could have had contact and relationships despite great geographic distance.  In 1947 he sailed from Peru to the French Polynesian islands in his Kon-Tiki.

We’re all connected with each other, despite the distances

Of course one doesn’t have to go to such extremes to conjure up one’s place in the cosmos, or the meaning of life, but it’s not unusual to find unusual circumstances like this raising the issue.  Heyerdahl was unusual in this respect for making his way in the world.  He was a man amongst men not just because of his mental and physical stamina and motivations, but because he understood spiritual truths, and grew from them.  Being alone with himself, he must have been able to build his self-awareness and apply it.  This is true despite the fact he could not swim and was morbidly afraid of the water!

I remember learning about Heyerdahl while growing up; his Kon-Tiki travels made an impression on me that carried forward to the present day. My memory was not  completely accurate, but the general storyline was intact so visiting the museum filled me in on the truth of his biography.

Discovering his life and life’s work at the Norwegian museum which carries his name on the Bygdoy Peninsula in Norway located near the Viking Ship Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Fram Museum, was a fascinating experience I had in late July of this year. My wife and I traveled to Norway and Sweden during the later half of July.   We spent time in Oslo and Bergen and spent the other half of our trip in Stromstad, Sweden, on the southwest side of Sweden. (More to follow in subsequent postings.)

I found Heyerdahl’s career story fascinating and wanted to share a few words about it.

He was greatly influenced by his mother, as she too had a background in zoology, and though his father was a businessman and was disappointed when he dropped out of college at the University of Oslo, he financed his son’s expeditions, starting with his most famous first foray.  He orchestrated other expeditions to remote islands around the globe, each time trying to prove that ancient civilizations had come from a common source through land and sea migrations. Over many decades he travelled with crews to the Galápagos Islands, Maldives Islands, Easter Islands, and to Egypt, Morocco and other remote locations.

While much of his work was unaccepted within the scientific community, some of his findings have merit, and he received numerous government and state honors as well as honorary degrees from Academy of Sciences and universities, testimony to his contributions.

Oddly enough, he spent the last years of his life in Tenerife, Canary Islands, which is the same location far away from Sweden, the same place which our friend Karin resides in during the bitterly cold winter months, away from Stromstad, Sweden.


Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

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