Things they said: Thor Heyerdahl

Lagoon, Huahine“Men shave and cut their hair, and women dye and curl their hair, paint their faces and put on false eyelashes, but below the skin nothing is ever altered.  We cannot get away from ourselves.  We have nowhere to retreat to, no choice but to help one another to build a durable civilisation in harmony with whatever natural environment we have left.”

from ‘Fatu-Hiva – Back to Nature’ by Thor Heyerdahl

Thor HeyerdahlIn 1937, a young Norwegian zoology student named Thor Heyerdahl and his bride, Liv Torp, went to live on the Polynesian island of Fatu Hiva.  Their dream of going ‘back to nature’ was abandoned after a year;  but for Heyerdahl it sparked a lifelong fascination with the culture and legends of ancient civilisations.

He is best known for his 4,300-mile voyage on the balsa-log raft, the Kon-Tiki, and he made several more journeys in the wake of ancient explorers, including sailing a papyrus boat (the Ra) from Morocco to the Caribbean.  His books tell amazing tales of adventure, but they also convey a strong message to future generations, urging us all to re-connect with our life-giving planet and preserve its precious natural environments.  “Nature itself is like a hearth,” he wrote.  “We can revive the fire wherever there are embers.”

Mungo Park Medal RSGSThor Heyerdahl received the Mungo Park medal from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1950 “for his leadership, courage and enterprise in navigating the Kon-Tiki raft from South America to Polynesia”.

Heyerdahl’s books include ‘The Kon-Tiki Expedition‘, ‘The Tigris Expedition‘, ‘Fatu-Hiva – Back to Nature‘ and ‘The Ra Expeditions’Images via Wikimedia except Mungo Park medal © RSGS

Writing about history and landscape at The Hazel Tree ( Writer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

2 thoughts on “Things they said: Thor Heyerdahl

  1. I didn’t know there was a connection between the RSGS and Thor Heyerdahl, although he seems a most worth recipient of the Mungo Park medal. I enjoy reading about his adventures, and going to live on Fatu Hiva was an incredible undertaking. It must have had a significant impact on the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoy his books, Lorna. I hadn’t read any before I came to write about him, but I was amazed by what he did with his life. Such a huge commitment, and to have the support of his family (and his wife’s family as well), to move to a remote island with no communication from the outside world, for an indefinite time. Even though it didn’t work out, it taught him so much, and I think it gave him an ‘overview’ of the planet because he wasn’t bothered by the trivia of everyday life. Like everyone else I’ve written about, he had an absolute belief in himself and what he was doing.


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