Monday, July 26, 2010

Still Searching for Kon-Tiki

Current Location: Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia 16°08.35'S / 142°23.56'W

Thanks to our friends Jim Yates and Barbara Emmons, we have a GPS waypoint for the Kon-Tiki landing area, and a description of the 'monument' erected in 2007, with the help of Thor Heyerdahl's grandsons. The description is from this article:

However.. the location Jim gave us, plots out in the middle of the reef area, and was quite 'awash' yesterday afternoon.

We have re-read the Kon-Tiki book several times now--the part about the landing and the island they camped on for a week before they were discovered by the Raroians from across the atoll. And we have studied the pictures in the book.

The biggest problem is this is all windward reef--even the islands themselves can be transient... they are piles of coral rubble and sand, topped with island vegetation. A really big storm could easily significantly change the landscape.

The narrative in the book talks about a big rock they piled all their stuff on, on the reef. The island that they ultimately camped on had much vegetation, the smell of flowers, palm trees, and white birds, with more islands 'distant in the blue haze' to the north, and another island with more vegetation to the south. They talk about eating big hermit crabs. Every islet that we went on yesterday (about 6 of them in total) fit that description.

The book shows pictures of them planting a palm tree brought with them from the coast of South America (62 years ago). We have visually checked every old, tall palm tree. You would think that someone would nail or tie a simple sign to the darned tree!!

The book also talks about them getting help from the islanders and the boat from Tahiti to drag Kon-Tiki in over the reef to the lagoon, and then tying Kon-Tiki up to a palm tree. We found a really big pile of really big rope wrapped around a palm tree.

We also found lots of windward debris--rum bottles, a little bit of plastic, and the inevitable assortment of shoes.

What we DIDN'T find was any sign of any man-made thing that looked like it might be a monument.

Barbara described the monument in the picture in the article as "a coral monument (a pile of coral) about 3 feet high and 4 feet wide", and Jim gave us a few more visual clues to look for on the island. So we're going back today--to exactly visit the waypoint on the reef (just for fun), and check out one of the islands that we visited yesterday that most closely matches this (from Jim's examination of the photos):

"The island they are on appears to be about 150' across and about 40-60 feet wide. It is covered in trees and has about 6-7 palm trees sticking out of the top of the tree line. There is a single palm tree sticking prominently above the other
trees at one end (don't know which end though...sorry) For reference, when exploring the islands, inside the island there is one palm tree that is almost horizontal for about 10 feet about waist high. The monument is not at the edge of the trees, but is somewhere in amongst the trees."

The wind is blowing 20-25 knots out of the east, so we're not going anywhere anytime soon. So this at least gives us something to do. It is as much fun as looking for Pancho Villa's gold!!

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