Thor Heyerdahl – defying death to prove a hunch

The fine line between courage and madness, mythic heroism and blind unrealistic faith was never clearer than in explorer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 1947 Kon Tiki voyage between South America and the South Sea Islands. Obsessed with the notion that ancient Peruvian peoples had crossed 900 miles of stormy sea to people Polynesia, he set out against a mountain of objections to build an old style raft without spikes, nails or wire. Experts predicted that the balsa would break under the strain; the logs would wear through the ropes, get waterlogged and sink; that the sail and rigging would be stripped by winds; that gales would swamp the raft and wash the crew overboard. Surprisingly the raft proved sea worthy and made an average rate of 37 nautical miles a day.

  Heyerdahl himself amazingly could barely swim. Having twice almost drowned as a boy, he had grown up terrified of water which makes the feat all the more hair-raising. Daily progress broadcasts caught public attention and was described as “the world’s first reality show.”

  In three months after 3,700 nautical miles they sighted land.

  In later years he conducted fieldwork in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Canada and never deviated from his controversial theories.

  He was born 6 October 1914 4.40 pm Larvik, Norway and had a Libra Sun trine an adventurous Uranus Jupiter in Aquarius.  Two things stand out in his chart – one is a ferociously determined Water Grand Trine of Saturn Pluto in Cancer trine an 8th house Mars Mercury in Scorpio trine a Pisces North Node – Water Grand Trines can be creative and healing but tend to live in their own bubble and don’t always interact well with reality. He also had an emphasised Neptune in Leo opposition Uranus square Mars Mercury opposition a Taurus Moon – a Fixed Grand Cross. He followed his dream with single-minded stubborness.

  There are several themes running through other explorers’ charts which tally.  Marco Polo, 15 September 1254 JC also had a Water Grand Trine of Uranus trine Neptune Jupiter trine Mars and Pluto in Scorpio – Uranus for pushing back boundaries, Neptune for a vision, Jupiter luck and Mars in Scorpio ultra-determined.

 David Livingstone, 19 March 1813 10.30pm – another Water Grand Trine of a Pisces Sun trine Jupiter trine Uranus.

  Richard Burton, 19 March 1821 9.30 pm Torquay, UK, a determined Sun Pluto in Pisces and a Pisces North Node like Heyerdahl with a highlighted Uranus Neptune in Capricorn square Jupiter Mercury in Aries.

  Ranulph Fiennes, 7 March 1944 12.30pm, another Sun Pisces with a tough Mars Saturn in Gemini and an accentuated Pluto in Leo conjunct the leadership Leo North Node and on the focal point of a Uranus trine Neptune. He shares his Leo North Node with David Livingstone and Marco Polo.

   Not all the same but similar enough themes running through – heavy Water concentration or/and Neptune – Uranus Neptune for the eureka moment of finding what their intuition led them towards. And a strong degree of unrealism allowing them to discount cautions and forge ahead risking death to fulfil their vision.

8 thoughts on “Thor Heyerdahl – defying death to prove a hunch

  1. The polynesian voyaging society has sucessfully proven that ancient polynesian voyages involved skilled knowledge, passed on thru the generations to navigate by the stars. Voyages were not happenstance or accidental. Genetics link to Taiwan, although that is not to say there was no south american mixing also, as posited by Thor Hayerdahl. Ancient Polynesian seafarers were skilled enough to sail both with and against the prevailing trade winds.–settlement-of-the-pacific/
    The Polynesian Voyaging Society’s ‘Hokulea’ sailed once again from Hawaii to Tahiti and back last year, and plan to undertake a pacific rim circumnavigation over the next few years.

  2. Thanks, Marjorie. I’ve always been fascinated by this man and I immensely enjoyed Kon Tiki and the book where he and his new wife moved to the Marquesas to leave civilization, only to see war ships sailing by! They even smashed their watches so they couldn’t keep track of time. 🙂

    • Having been to Fatu Hiva and the other Marquesan islands, it is clear that TH is not well liked, respected or remembered. His undertaking was presumptuous and now considered racist. The Polynesians were certainly the greatest seafarers and navigators of all time, and certainly their reach extended to the Americas at various times. Whether early peoples in the Americas travelled of their own accord to the Polynesian Islands is still unknown. TH’s legacy is one of other white misfits trying to sneak in to the Marquesas – Fenua Enata, as the locals call their islands – and trying to disappear into the jungle as if it is a no-man’s-land, causing agro for local authorities.

  3. Thor Heyerdahl’s adventures and theories were amazing. I noticed that in 2020 the results of a DNA study showed that Polynesians sailed to S. America in around 1200 AD – or vice versa. There’s ancient Native American DNA in some Polynesian people. Nobody is entirely certain which way round the long sea journeys were. But his intuition was leading in the right direction.

    At the time this discovery was announced, Saturn had just popped briefly into Aquarius, opposing Thor’s Neptune. And the June Solar Eclipse was at 0 Cancer, close to his Saturn/Pluto conjunction. I thought of Saturn in Aquarius, in this instance, as symbolising scientific history of people. The incredible Human Genome Project that mapped all our DNA, was launched in October 1990. In February 1991, Saturn entered Aquarius.

    • Here is recent video on how the DNA of some Indigenous South Americans carry traces of Indigenous Australian and Melanisian DNA: It makes the persuasive argument that the earliest Pacific Ocean travellers would have been hunter-gatherers who would have wanted to move on once the game on islands were used up — and that when sea levels were much lower than now, there could have been many more Pacific islands which would have allowed island-hopping to Central and South America. Heyerdahl was the first to note ancient travel going in the opposite direction as indicated by sweet potatoes native to South America being found on a wide range of Pacific islands. Scientists have now pinpointed the time when Polynesians were bringing back sweet potatoes from South America: between 1000 to 1300 C.E.: I love the Kon Tiki story!

      • Thanks for the link to the potato article Cathy.
        I’d argue that TH was likely to have been the first white man to come up with that theory. Indigenous cultures had oral knowledge and history that was not acknowledged as important; indeed was often wiped out..

  4. Thank you for picking this up Marjorie. Vision and toughness make a formidable combination. I am going to read some of his work so I can be an armchair explorer at least.

  5. Very nice to see Thor Heyerdahl featured. His book on the Kon Tiki was the first one I was given when learning Norwegian, many many years ago. There’s a strong streak of adventurousness among Norwegians – necessary if you live there! – but they’re also very nice and solidly reliable people.

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