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Thor Heyerdahl
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    (October 6, 1914-April 18, 2002)
    Born in Larvik, Norway
    Explorer and ethnographer
    Best known for building an Inca-style raft, the Kon-Tiki, and sailing it from Peru to French Polynesia (1947)
    Also crossed the Atlantic from Morocco to the West Indies in a papyrus boat, Ra II (1970)
    Wrote 'Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft' (1948), 'Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island' (1958), 'The Ra Expeditions' (1971) and 'Fatu Hiva: Back to Nature' (1974)
    Ironically given his fame as a oceangoing explorer, he was terrified of the water as a boy.
    He was married three times, divorced twice.
    He complained that his celebrity from the Kon-Tiki voyage pigeonholed him as an adventurer, making it difficult for him to convince scientists of his anthropological theories.
    Although the Kon-Tiki voyage showed it was theoretically possible that Polynesia could have been settled from South America, the genetic, linguistic and archaeological evidence strongly indicates that the Polynesians originally came from Southeast Asia.
    He joined the Free Norwegian forces in World War II.
    He won an Oscar for Best Documentary for his film of the Kon-Tiki voyage (1951).
    He headed the first significant archeological expeditions in the Galapagos and Easter Island.
    His reports about encountering garbage in the middle of the sea brought attention to the problem of ocean pollution.
    His theories were partly vindicated when a genetic study of Easter Islanders indicated that although the island was mostly colonized from the West, there was some influx from the Americas (2011).
    In a newspaper poll, he was voted 'Norwegian of the Century.' (1999)

Credit: C. Fishel

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