Arriving the Society Islands, Tangaroa was met by a spectacular welcome ceremony at the old temple ruins Marae Taputapuatea at the island Raiatea, the most important traditional temple in Polynesia. Regarded as French Polynesia’s most sacred isle, Raiatea is the old cultural centre of the Polynesian islands.
After a troublesome night, the Tangaroa crew was picked up at the raft by outrigger canoes and brought ashore as if they were kings! More than 1000 people participated in the traditional reception, starting with a welcome speech, flower gifts, religious blessings and stone offering on the beach. Then the crew took part in a ceremony at the old sacrificial grounds before entering the main temple ground where the official part of the ceremony took place. Here the crew was brought gifts, and they were celebrated with great speeches.
In Torgeir’s own words: ”People awaited us like they did in ancient times when powerful chiefs arrived in their double canoes from other islands. The ceremony is meant to remind the population of times long gone, when guests brought stones to the great sacrificial grounds of Taputapuatea. We brought stones from Peru. Once this island was the centre of Polynesia, and according to local oral history, all the other islands were populated from here.
Now we are done with sailing and experimentation. The expedition is a success; we are very pleased with the results and the samples collected. We have sailed more than 4500 nautical miles, which equals 1/5 of the distance around Equator. Now we are heading for our final destination – Tahiti – by the means of tugboat. Nobody will take the chance of arriving too late for the last, but not least, ceremony: The one in Tahiti!”
Tangaroa landing in Papeete on Tahiti!
At four pm Sunday 30th of July 2006, Tangaroa arrived at the harbour of Papeete, 24 hours after the estimated time of arrival. At the last stretch the raft was in for a rough treatment, but it seems no serious damage has been done to the raft or the equipment.
About 1000 people greeted the bearded, suntanned and soaking wet seamen at the harbour of Papeete. The crew was visibly touched and overwhelmed by the warm welcome and the great reception, and they all agreed the expedition had come to a most successful end. 93 days after leaving Callao in Peru they were able to step ashore in Tahiti – the final destination of the expedition!
According to the programme the reception should have taken place on Saturday afternoon, but due to high waves, the tug boat could not get them in Raiatea in time. Raiatea is situated west of Tahiti, and towing would be necessary to go against the winds and currents on their way back.The night of towing became a tough one both for the raft and the crew, with hardly no sleep at all, but this was quickly forgotten when Tangaroa proudly entered the harbour of Papeete, escorted by two tug boats and sailors in outrigger canoes.
The expedition members were celebrated like great heroes! Drummers created an exciting atmosphere from first sight of the raft on the horizon, and an artificial beach had been made in the harbour to create an authentic feeling of ancient times. When entering the beach, the crew was once again given a traditional welcome speech and flowers around their neck, before being carried one by one to the ceremony area and lead through colourful dancing groups on to the stage. The reception area was beautifully decorated with flowers and traditional handcraft made of palm leaves.
Mona Sæverud Higraff, wife of expedition leader Torgeir, and Olav’s parents, Grethe & Thor Heyerdahl Jr, were among the waiting crowd in addition to Norwegian friends and some representatives of French / Polynesian authorities.The plane with the President Oscar Temaru was delayed, so all he had time for when he finally arrived was to congratulate the Tangaroa crew. Luckily they got to meet him again two days later. In the name of the President, the Minister of Cultural Exchange gave the welcome speech. The ceremony included traditional singing and dancing, a religious ceremony and several speeches from different officials, all tied nicely together by Mr. Georges Estall, Mayor of Raroia and President of the Raroia Association.
Raroia Association has been the coordinator of all three receptions in French Polynesia, and outstanding hosts for the expedition members during their stay. The main aim of the organisation is to create a new Kon-Tiki museum and a hotel in Raroia, the atoll in the Tuamoto Group where Kon-Tiki shipwrecked in 1947!
At 6 pm Sunday 30. July Tangaroa arrived at the harbour of Papeete, 24 hours after the estimated time of arrival. At the last stretch the raft was in for a rough treatment by the tow boat which moved too fast for the ideal pace of the raft. Just before arrival at the harbour, with heavy current towards the raft, the sea entered on board with great force and the whole cabin and all the electronic equipment was under water. In spite of this incident the equipment seems to have survived without damages.
We had great fun on the raft in the Tuamotu Archipelago, when we passed several reefs with up to four knots speed. The raft obeyed our commands. All we had to do to get clear of the reefs was to adjust the sail and guaraboards. Glad we had the knowledge about sailing, represented by Bjarne and Øyvin. We were forced to set the course north, when we really wanted to go southwest, but of course – the long path is preferable before a disaster. The challenge turned into a problem when the wind was decreasing and a new reef came up in the horizon. Time elapsed between our jokes. This had probably a negative effect on how we received orders from the officers. But still in the tense moments; when we could hear the breaking swells, and the wind from the weather forecast didn’t show up – and the raft was sucked into the lagoon with the rising tide - still then there was no sign of fear among the crewmembers.
Our calculations turned out to be correct. The positions we had won during the breeze were good enough to keep us away from disaster, and now I understand the sailor when he talks about this kind of strategies. It’s like a game of chess: You have to think many moves ahead. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see the changing mood since we came out of the dangerous archipelago, specially now when we have wind in our sails. Our bodies are filled with energy that we use to clean up the deck, and to have fun. In a few days everything must shine on deck. Now we are sailing towards Raiatea. Then we do a kind of victorious round back to Tahiti. Who knows? Maybe the president will visit the raft? Torgeir Sæverud Higraff
For us, this is an important tradition, and we are honored to continue it. But appointments are not easy to keep when you go by raft. We made it for the big one in Raroia, just in time. Now we need more wind to keep our next. If you go by plane northwest from Tahiti you will find us after about 160 km. The last days have been without much progress, but we manage to go a few meters to the west, every minute.
The full moon appears to be an orange on the horizon, lighting up our sails. We have already been sailing for a while again, now heading further westwards from Raroia. Captain Bjarne has ordered change in watch hours. To me, it means I will be on watch from 5 o’clock to 8 o’clock morning and evening. I am the kind of person who generally loves mornings, and I really enjoy the hour before sunrise.
It feels good to be out on the sea again, even if our stay in the lagoon was ever so fantastic! We are having good winds now, and the currents seem to be on our side – we sail at a speed of 3 knots most of the time, with topsail and all. The plan is to sail in between the islands of the Tuamoto group – finding the fastest route to the Leeward Islands (The Society Islands).The challenge is that the winds, waves and the currents vary a lot here. We expect to meet more ships, as we now follow the main route. Our biggest fear is that the wind should disappear completely at the wrong point in time – then the reefs may become dangerous….
The raft has been filled with fresh food. We have been assigned the task to eat not less than one big bag of coconuts….each! Raroia has even managed to find sponsors for the reception. Together with the authorities of Tahiti, 100 kilos of supplies arrived on the chartered plane last Saturday. At least 10 kilos of this are sweets and candy… :-)
I am back on the balsa raft anchored on the shallow turquoise waters of the Raroia lagoon. I have brought Bjarne ashore by boat, just in time for the final soccer game of the world championship which is being shown on a wide screen in a small brick building also visited by the Kon-Tiki crew in 1947. When I finish this text, I will row back in to join him for the second round. From behind the palm trees I can already hear the cheering...
Today we really appreciate this assistance. Bjarne has, according to Polynesian tradition, been given a new name: Teheoru o Tiki. During dinner with the people of Raroia, the vice-president promised us assistance also on the arrival at the Society Islands. The plans made for us there by the tourist authorities reach far above my wildest imagination, and I am still completely overwhelmed with all the impressions and the incredible hospitality of this people. I will conclude by using the words of Øyvin: ”No wonder the legend of a Pacific paradise exist”!
Torgeir Sæverud Higraff
Today I woke up to the smell of something different. Olav is on duty from 5 to 8 in the morning, and he usually set the table with bread, cheese and hot water. The cheese is gone, so now we enjoy bread and water. But today he made rice pudding. I knew he was capable of making pudding, but this breakfast was surprising since the bag of rice was empty last week. He had his own rice in his personal box. Thank you, Olav! We need small pleasures out here.
At 8 o’clock this morning the distance to Raroia was 500 nautical miles. If we reach the sunny sand beach as planned, we can go wherever we want in Eastern Polynesia. Under the Norwegian flag we hope to bring with us an expedition culture were unlimited action radius is part of the essence. Tahiti is still our final landfall, but Tangaroa and the island community might give you some surprises before Papeete!
During some days of calm, we had the chance to check all the balsa logs. To our friends in Ecuador we can report that our cooperation with Alcan Baltek and their balsa specialists, proved a success. The logs are floating only a couple of inches lower than the day of departure. The seaweeds cover the surface of the logs, underneath the sea level.
The raft construction consists of several hundred knots. The sisal rope consists of natural fiber. With huge assistance from the Peruvian Navy, we have probably made the safest raft in the world. Every single knot attaching the main logs and the cross beams, is a time consuming result of several men working together, using all their strength and expertise. Also the bamboo cabin is made to resist big waves and stormy weather. So far, after several gales, we haven’t touch one of the knots. The raft and the cabin are still firm and solid, making a lot of noise, of course, due to constant movement caused by the tremendous power in the sea underneath. There is still some more work to do before the complete report about the sailing and the excellent sails made by the Norwegian family company - Seglloftet.
Our experience says it’s possible to steer the raft between the reefs and islands of Tuamoto. But the first landing will be the big test. Can the landfall be as dramatic as some people fear? We depend on weather conditions, our teamwork and skill in raft navigation. Tangaroa has proved capable of succeeding in the task. But we remember, and we are frequently reminded, how Kon-Tiki was drifting towards the notorious Takume and Raroia reefs, a fifty-mile barrier almost impossible to circumvent.
After two months at sea we are still friends. Fact is that we are even better friends now than in Callao. Here it’s easy to discuss topics, to get a full understanding of the view of our crewmates. In Callao, we were in a dire straight the last month. Never time to talk things trough. And March stressed us to the edge, because of the overwhelming logistic challenge. On the raft, so far, we all agree that we share favorable conditions for making a good society: Every single member of this society has agreed upon the rules, and these rules have been made for the safety onboard.
Today is our 60th day at sea. Just “another day at the office” is a common joke in the morning, before a swim in the biggest clear water pool in the world. A lot of fish follow the raft all the time, and we have seen many crabs, including our dear “Johannes 2nd”. But we have only seen four sharks. On the other hand, birds are visiting us constantly. We are extremely privileged to have this close contact with the sea around us. Øyvin has collected sea samples stored in special membranes. Except of possible invisible pollution that can be discovered after analysis in the University of Bergen, among others, the surface of the sea is visually clean in this isolated part of the Pacific.
Right now sun is shining on the logs, doing almost 3 knots in the ocean. Roberto and Bjarne prepare a 10kg dolphin. Øyvin is digging samples from the stomach of the fish. Anders, not recovered after the loss in the football cup (Germany – Sweden), has a phone talk with our film producer, Videomaker. Olav is sleeping, because he just finished his night watch. We have received great news from our very helpful contacts in Raroia and Tahiti. Tell more about that later. Now: Thanks all of you who follow our journey on the webpage!
|The following text can be found on the blog of vice president of the European Commission, Margot Wallström:|
Mid June was party-time on the raft! Anders had his birthday on the 13th, and Olav had his on the 15th.
Anders had coffee and cake on the bedside, and this cake has really been through a lot. It was a gift from the Heyerdahl Institute already in January. Since then, it has been travelling in a container from Norway to Germany, across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and down to Peru, where it spent several weeks in the customs. It has been studied and counted numerous times by shipping agents and custom inspectors, and now finally it has been eaten after 46 days on a balsa raft – still very good!
Olav celebrated with pancakes for breakfast and – according to his own wish – MRE food from the American Navy both for lunch and dinner!
For the first time in more than 50 days, the expedition experienced a day completely without wind. The day was spent washing, swimming and relaxing. For once it was possible to go for a real swim without risking being left astern. Torgeir says: ”One day like this is just a perfect day – one week of this would definitely challenge our patience. Without wind we are bound to drift with the ocean current, which at the moment is bringing us too far south”. Luckily the wind came back the next day, and they are now sailing westwards again, approaching Polynesia day by day!
The last one to join the crew was the Peruvian ex navy officer Roberto Sala.
”My friend Paco called me on the phone asking if I and my family would like to spend a day on the beach with some Scandinavian friends of his. He told me they were preparing an expedition in the wake of Kon-Tiki”, Roberto says. “I was looking forward to it; to meeting new people, to speaking English and learning more about this expedition”. Two weeks later he learned that the Navy was looking for a Peruvian candidate to join the expedition. They wanted a young, but still retired officer! Roberto had a quick persuasive chat with his wife, and some days later his office was cleared and Roberto was the last member of the Tangaroa Expedition.
“Yesterday we had goose liver for lunch! That meal was a gift from
our Ecuadorian friends – a delicious contrast to our daily fish dishes.
A special thanks to Derek and Lisa" :-)
The 6th of June is the Swedish National Day, and this day Anders and Sweden was the main focus and subject on the raft. The Swedish flag was raised at 8 o’clock. Anders even taught the rest of the crew how to sing the Swedish national hymn.
“ I prepared a couple of boxes of Ravioli with a nice glass of wine for lunch”, Anders tells us. “Tall waves make us save the big celebration for Midsummer’s Eve. “But there is no doubt you feel very Swedish on a day like this. It is definitely touching to think about my family and friends back home”, he says”.
Last 24 hours Tangaroa covered a distance of more than 80 nautical miles.
The record came after several days of sailing at a higher speed than the
Kon-Tiki ever had during her 101 days at sea. With the top sail down and
one reef in the main sail, the raft makes a steady speed of more than 3
knots at winds of about 7 metres per second.
“I knew we were likely to find good winds at these latitudes”, says
Bjarne, who together with Øyvin has studied the wind maps of the Pacific
very closely these last few weeks.
”We have had winds near gale and tall waves these last few days”,
Øyvin tells us. ”Waves of 5 metres snapping at us from behind, sending
buckets of water up on deck. The wind is blowing straight in from
behind, and we just sit and watch the raft sailing by herself.
Even if the weather is quite heavy, the sun is shining, and we’re
rushing towards the west!”.
The expedition has now covered 2524 nm!
When the Kon-Tiki expedition was half way across the Pacific, they had a strange visitor. It turned out to be a snake mackerel (Gempylus serpens), a rare species of fish, until then never caught alive. As a strange coincidence the Tangaroa expedition caught a similar sample at more or less the same place, only 59 years later!
In Torgeir’s own words (excerpt):
It was a starry night with moonlight and some few clouds when I, in the middle of my three hour watch, decided to try fishing for a while. At the Tangaroa raft we normally do not fish for fun. We fish when we plan to have fish on the menu! Still sometimes it happens that my North Norwegian genes reminds met that I used to like fishing, and this tend to happen if the watch is quiet and I have finished reading my book. (…) I let go of the rod and jumped back. What kind of strange, ugly, silvery eel-like fish was this? (…) Bjarne came out from the hut and said in his sober manner that this was a strange fish. In the raft library’s fish book we found the nothing but a sketch of something familiar to this – but in the Kon-Tiki book we found a picture of exactly the same type of fish…!
Here you can read the crew’s last reports:
29th of May: Then we got weather. A gale came in yesterday evening and kept us company during the night. Big waves. Speed from 4,5 to 5 knots and logged distance is 79 nm last 24 hours. The Tangaroa raft finds the conditions comfortable and is remarkably steady. Today we’ve had a fresh breeze, big waves and sunshine. An impressive and beautiful sight. Reduced main sail size before dawn.
28th of May: More raindrops this night, and very good sailing. Yesterday at afternoon, during our “counting procedure”, we had our first real shower in the tropical rain. It’s been a month since the last fresh water shower.
27th of May: Yesterday the ladder to the mast was finished. Now we can enjoy the view from the top of the mast, more than ten meters above sea level. More sailing. Got topsail down at midnight, when wind got the speed of 9 meters per second.
On the 25th of May they had a visitor: The beautiful the 185ft schooner Adix, on its way from Polynesia to Galapagos showed up out of the blue, bringing chocolate ice cream, cold beer and coffee…
What a party!!!
- We have sailed 1329 nautical miles, and have covered one third of the leg to Raroia. In comparison, we are 350 nautical miles ahead of Kon-Tiki on the same date, Øyvin writes in the logon the 22nd of May. The guara technique has proved to work well.
- We’re sailing the great circle in direction Raroia. We have a much better possibility to stay on course than Kon-Tiki had, and that is exactly what Tangaroa was trying to prove. Kon-Tiki used 101 days. Let’s see how much time we need. As long as we have wind, we’re heading straight ahead towards Polynesia.
When it comes to the weather, the expedition has been extremely lucky so far. Yesterday was quite calm, but most of the time there has been a breeze of varying strength. From time to time they have some showers, but most days are sunny and warm. The height of the waves varies from 0 to 3 meters, at times on top of a ground swell. The water temperature has stabilized at 24-25 ºC and air temperature at 26-27 ºC, so there is no need to complain!
This is how they describe it in their last report:
- Today it’s sunny with a few clouds, and we have a gentle breeze pushing us along. Last night was quite windy with heavy showers. The sea builds up quite easily out here, but it never gets choppy. Now we sail with a wave height of about three meters. The raft creaks and groans, but manages the waves surprisingly well. The water often covers the main logs, but the cross beams which keep the raft together and carry the bamboo deck give us enough freeboard to keep our feet dry. In old photos from Kon-Tiki we can see the helmsman sitting with his feet directly on the main logs, and he would get a wet trip on such days.
The crew is happy and satisfied so far! They never expected things to run so smoothly!
The wildlife around the raft is really exciting. Frigate birds, Dorado fish and flying fish have been following them for a long time now, and a couple of days ago they had a curious sea turtle (Caretta caretta) visiting them. Olav even got the chance to dive in and take a closer look at it!
The 17th of May is the Norwegian constitution day – or the national day. Many countries celebrate their national days by military parades in the streets, but Norway has chosen a children’s parade instead, including all children between 6 and 18 years of age!
This day is a holyday in Norway. Everything is closed except for restaurants and amusement parks, and streets and houses are decorated with Norwegian flags in red, white and blue. The families gather in the streets to watch the children marching through the cities representing their schools. All of them have small flags in their hands, and they are singing the National anthem and other national songs and shouting “Hipp, hipp, hurra!” Many schools also have their own marching band. It is quite common to wear the national costume, “bunad”, different for each county.
The party continues all day with activities for the children and lots of ice cream, hot dogs and cakes.
“Today is 17th of May, the Norwegian National Day. It started with a new story for our fishing experts in Norway, when Roberto caught a nice tuna (or big bonito, we are not sure yet), close to 10 kg in size.
Flag ceremony at 8.00. Captain Bjarne gave a speech. We sang the National anthem and had breakfast with risengrynsgrøt (rice pudding) and fresh baked bread.
Our outfit is also nice and clean, compared to normal days. Clouds will soon disappear, a breeze pushes us steady forward towards our goal. Seems it will be a successful celebration”.
Even the fish got to see the Norwegian flag this day…
“Yesterday, on our tenth day at sea, we had covered a distance of 500 nautical miles. After a lot of trying and failing the first days, we have now gained valuable experience in sailing a balsa raft. Now the raft obeys our wishes for course and speed. In the beginning we had a hard time understanding the movements of the raft. We also experienced that three of the front guaras broke under water, but we fixed that problem by cutting them smaller – they actually were a bit too big from the beginning. By doing so, we still have three extra guaras that may come in handy later. All the time we keep changing the area of keels under the prehistoric vessel, to obtain optimal balance and the highest possible speed.
The trouble-free voyage the last few days has given us peace of mind and a lot of time for reflection. In the night when we keep watch together, when we sit by the compass and glance at the phosphorescence of the sea encircling the raft like a halo, it sometimes happens that we give thanks to each other. We are so happy to experience the sea from this unique perspective, and for all the fantastic incidents and impressions that make time pass ever so quickly. One of the things we have learned is that without the effort of the person next to you, this expedition would not have been possible.
We had hard times building the best balsa raft in the world. The aim is that our navigation can keep up the good qualities of the raft. Our goal is to perform the best possible navigation in between the islands and reefs in difficult waters. Even more important is perhaps what we experience during the voyage, and the recognition of how everything in the world is connected.
Fluorescent crests of foam in the night. Swarms of flying fish in the morning. Dorado fish swimming along the raft all day long, inviting us to play - and then later in the evening letting us have one of their delicious brothers for dinner. No wonder we shout with joy!”
When I came out of the cabin to take a morning swim, I found Bjarne and Øyvin struggling with the course. The sail was fluttering wildly on the fore deck, and we were backing towards east. I was ordered to help out in making the raft gybe (turn away from the wind and around), and were told to drag the sail backwards on the port side. All of a sudden the bamboo square boom broke with a slow crashing sound.
It wasn’t all that bad! Bjarne was completely calm. We found some extra bamboo and reinforced the new square boom with hard wood from Ecuador. While Bjarne lashed the boom, Olav did a half an hour dive underneath the raft. Anders filmed him with a camera fixed to an especially made bamboo rig which he lowered down along the side of the raft. Some hours later the sail was back up, and the course again set westwards.
According to the daily status report from the raft, three cracked guara-boards were the reason for the sudden change of course that broke the boom. The damage was discovered by Olav diving under the raft.
The incident has not damaged the spirit on board, later in the afternoon Anders sent this report: "Here everything is fine after a minor accident with a broken square boom. We had some extra bamboo, so we spent most of the day repairing it, but our spirits are high and we are in a very good mood after all! We're sailing as good as ever. We're doing 3 knots just now, and we're fishing for our first fish dinner - unfortunately it is still laughing at us..."
30th of April
All the time we take down useful notes on how to place the guaras, and we make about 2.5 knots on average with the wind coming in from the side of the raft. Our course is straight westwards, and the whole crew is in an excellent mode. While the raft does the sailing, we tidy the place, do some work out and try some fishing. The third day is a perfect one!
1st of May
Today the raft has behaved perfectly! If the wind drops, we just rise or lower one of the guaras at the stern to stay on our course. This happens so rarely that the helmsman can easily keep in complete control of the raft in between the passing fishing vessels and the reading of a good novel from his place in the hammock. From there, he also gets a good view on the huge compass dated in 1941, provided for us by the US Navy. Right now it tells us we’re sailing at a course of 270º, which will take us more or less straight westwards. Then we have taken into account the cold Humbolt current, which brings us constantly further north. Our aim is to stay on a north-westerly course; but a bit further south than the Kon-Tiki.
We’re hungry! Fish is on top of our list of wants every day. Øyvin almost caught one of the big ones that are most of the time playing around the raft, but it slipped away just before becoming our dinner. With a forceful blow of the tail fin it cut loose from the Mustad hook and dived, leaving the crew in deep disappointment… A bit crestfallen we ate our army meals, but just you wait…!
Today, 28th of April - exactly 59 years after Kon-Tiki- the Tangaroa raft today left La Punta Callao heading for Polynesia. Here we go!
The departure ceremony today on the Escuela Naval at La Punta was really outstanding; an unforgettable frame for a moment of emotion. It was a strange experience watching the raft sliding slowly away into the fog while the band played ”Auld Lang Syne”…
Thor Heyerdahl and his crew used 101 days on their journey with the Kon-Tiki in 1947, ending at the island Raroia. Tangaroa will sail a bit further – to Tahiti – but they expect to be able to sail faster than Kon-Tiki. What remains is to see how long it will actually take them to cross the Pacific....
The crew is now complete, the raft is almost ready and we are in the final phase of preparation! In four short days the Tangaroa Expedition set the course for an ancient adventure, departing from La Punta, Callao.
On Friday the 28th of April the expedition will start their long journey towards Polynesia, on the very same spot and the same date as Thor Heyerdahl launched the world famous Kon-Tiki raft in 1947. At that time, the journey took 101 days, ending at the Raroia reef. Today’s heavily equipped balsa raft is bigger, has a three times as large sail and will, as opposed to Kon-Tiki, be manoeuvrable by the same techniques as applied by the prehistoric South-American seafarers. The expedition will, supported by the University of Bergen, Norway, look for molecular pollution and document any changes in the sea water since 1947.
The Tangaroa Expedition has been made possible through expensive financial support by sponsors, among them the main sponsors Branding Larvik, Skagen Fondene and AGR – and invaluable help from the Peruvian Navy during the intense building phase. The balsa raft has already before the building started been bought by an investor from Larvik, Norway. The plan is to create a Thor Heyerdahl Centre in his home town, with the Tangaroa raft as a symbol of the heritage he created.
The Tangaroa crew is finally complete! The sixth member is Peruvian Roberto Martin Sala Rey (43). Roberto has a career as an officer of the Peruvian Navy, but has lately worked as a civilian, in anti-corruption work among other things. He is married to Lilly, and they have a seven years old daughter, Daniela. Roberto speaks English very well, has spent a lot of time out on the ocean and knows astral navigation, a skill that may be both interesting and useful during the journey. In addition, he is an extremely nice guy who has already adapted very well into the group.
After weeks and weeks of waiting, this weekend represented a breakthrough for the Tangaroa Expedition. Late Friday night the container from Ecuador finally showed up with the cross beams and the other wooden materials and the unloading started immediately.
This week the cross beams will be attached to the main logs, and the platform of 11 main logs and 8 cross beams will be ready. Since time ran out for the Norwegian carpentry students (they had to go back home after four weeks in Peru), five experienced workers from SIMA now assist the crew in assembling the raft.
For more pictures of the building process, see www.tangaroa.no
At 12 o’clock March 20 our balsa logs finally arrived at the SIMA shipyard in Callao.
The expedition has been waiting nearly three weeks for the logs from Ecuador. Head of construction, crew member Øyvin Lauten, is the happiest of men today. –With a little help we’ll end up in The Guinness Book of Records with a world record in raft building, he says. But then we need our tools right away!
The expedition hopes to get access to their tools and materials on Monday. The containers from Norway and Ecuador are still in the port of Callao. Even the customs clearance has taken more time than expected.
The delays on the log deliverance will not affect the launching date or our plans for the last week before departure. We have calculated with possible delays in our time schedule, and departure will be on the 28th of April as planned.
The Tangaroa Expedition is most grateful to The Peruvian Navy (here represented by Comandante Francisco Yabar) and SIMA - Servicio Industrial de la Marina. Without their assistance we would find ourselves in a very difficult position right now.
The cross-beams are stored behind the main logs and will have to be moved by hand in order to get within reach of the crane. At two o’clock I loose my temper on purpose. I raise my voice in lack of a proper vocabulary. 10 minutes later the manager agrees that we will not have time for loading the container if we keep waiting for the trucks.
He also agrees that his boss will probably make an exception from the rules in this case. According to these rules, logs should not be handled by hand. His boss is Derek, with whom we stayed for six weeks. Ten men strong, assisted by an eager photographer, we take action at two o’clock, four hours before the container must be ready to leave. I’m watching the huge cross-beams. How on earth will we manage to get them across the main logs without a crane?
When the fifth log is in place inside the container, I become aware that the speed is being dramatically reduced. The sixth and also the heaviest log remain on the ground for half an hour. I carry out three isolated actions, and not knowing which one that worked, at least one of them did!
First of all I provided the men with ice cold water, then I arranged a group photo, and finally I promised them gratuity from Tangaroa if the container is ready to be shipped within deadline at 6.00 p.m. in one hour we load four cross-beams, 12 heavy guara boards, 30 rectangular balsa planks and 600 m of bamboo. I will never forget the pouring rains and the crashes of thunder every five minutes. Nor the energy the men invested in the task of getting the container ready for tonight’s shipping. Crying and shouting at each other: Rapido! Faster! For Tangaroa! Hundreds of bamboo logs being dragged through the mud from the depot to the container truck at the gate. The manager cries out from his place under the roof: 5 minutes left! Dinner soon!
Not since the last night of the floating I have been so soaking wet, sweaty, hungry and happy. We did everything we could today. The trucks never showed up, and the owner never answered the phone. Olav, Anders and I have been through this before. Tomorrow will show if Tangaroa now faces another three days of delay…But anyhow, we will make it!
Translated into English by Anne Thorenfeldt
The balsa logs have been delayed for almost two weeks, but there are still lots of things to be done while waiting. Our building site is now established at the SIMA shipyard of the Peruvian Navy, and we live comfortable and safe at the Naval Academy in La Punta Callao. The Peruvian Navy is extremely helpful to us!
1400 m of sisal rope (for lack of hemp which has proved impossible to get here) has been purchased, and we have started making the more than 100 eye splices for connecting the logs. The making of “Little Tangaroa”, now displayed at the Kon-Tiki Museum, provided us with experiences that really come in handy. Four Norwegian carpentry students, all trained within this school project, are here for a month to help building the raft. But even with good work hands, time is running fast.
Photo: Iver Gjelstenvik
Click to zoom. Photo: Iver Gjelstenvik
The rafting started last week in Vinces, about 100 kilometres north east of Guayaquil. We made two temporary rafts of the 12 huge balsa logs, and after having made sure that the rafts would withstand both collisions with sand banks and towing, we let go of the mooring. Due to heavy rains the river was now big enough to carry us safely at a speed of about 3 km/h. From the rafts we watched people on the river banks living their lives the same way people did of hundreds of years ago. Only the corrugated roofs told us this was the present. Some of the houses belong to the plantations stretching miles and miles south of Vinces. In the morning hours we met people in their canoes collecting the fishing nets from last night. We saw the river people picking fruit, bringing home breakfast directly form the trees. At daytime, we felt sorry to see how the locals threw all their waste directly into the river. For each mile down the river the contamination seemed to grow worse.
The crew of the two rafts was 12 men strong. Beside the three Tangaroa members, we had three officers of the Ecuadorian Navy, two local volunteers and four well equipped representatives of the Vinces’ Civil Defence. They even brought a boat, meant for shopping and possible towing, that came in very handy for our film photographer Anders. The river is winding in curves of 90º, making the rafting a longer trip than if we had been strolling along the road. We spent the nights sleeping onshore, unable to continue in the dark due to the threat of the high-voltage cables hanging low across the river.
We were in no need to hurry. For each day the logs soaked up several ten litres of fresh water, making them more capable of resistance against the attack from the ship worm Teredo Navalis that they risk in three months when the raft is launched in Callao.
After the arrival in Guayaquil the logs were transported to our warehouse, where the material for the mast, guara boards and cross beams and the bamboo was already waiting for them.
The floating taught us a lot about how the coast people used to live in these areas, and how the environment has changed during the last 60 years. The journey down the river also revealed that two of our 12 balsa logs were not fit for taking us across the Pacific, and will have to be replaced before the building of the raft starts.
Guayaquil Ecuador, February 2006
Torgeir Sæverud Higraff, Expedition leader
The Quevedo River and the city where we’ll start the floating.
Thor Heyerdahl floated the logs down the Quevedo River to the coast. Our plan is to do the same, next week. But it may turn out to be harder now than in 1947…
We share the worries of the Ecuadorian farmers about the weather. The rains should have been here already in December, filling up all the little rivers leading to the one where we will float our logs. The water level should have been almost 2 meters higher!
Torgeir and Anders checking the water level of the river from a plane.
But the weather is not like it used to be in Quevedo either, so when our film photographer Håvard went up in a small plane to shoot the river from above, we came with him in order to check out where we may expect trouble during the floating. Now we know that already after a few hundred meters of floating the logs might get stranded. If it doesn’t rain at all this weekend, we will need a massive amount of help to get the logs down to the coast the traditional way.
I ran towards the fallen tree as if I were the first person approaching the site of an accident. I felt strangely emotional about this tree. The hot, moist air was filled with seeds scattering with the wind - the mother tree creating her last generation of new balsa babies. The first Tangaroa tree has been cut down. This happened on the very same spot where Thor Heyerdahl started his incredible career 59 years ago.
Finally our questions will be answered: Will these trees ever become the basis of our raft? The core sample of this specific tree had been dubious. At a meter’s height, the test sample revealed some strange reddish sawdust smelling like a mixture of urine and Tabasco. Further up the ladder we had collected a perfect sample. What kind of tree was this really? What kind of disease did it suffer from?
But Angel, the plantation supervisor, tells the man with the chain saw to cut off another meter of the tree…and I will never forget that beautiful sight of a perfect balsa tree now appearing, healthy all the way through to the inner core!
Several trees hit the ground that day under the burning sun, and we learnt more about natural science than from all previous school excursions. The bark was being removed the traditional way; a slimming of several hundred kilos per tree. The architect behind the rotten sawdust turned out to be a worm that, during a period of three years, feed very well on balsa before turning into a fat, colourful, flying bug.
On our way back to the hotel at the end of a long working day we pass through kilometres of balsa woodland. Hundreds of species of birds sing in these woods, a token of the advantage of the balsa industry compared to mono-cultures like e.g. banana plantations. In the balsa plantations several species of trees live side by side, and the balsa trees may be grown without utilizing any kind of eradicant.
One of the last days at the balsa plantation something happens that could have been very dramatic. I was watching Olav strolling along among the trees when suddenly supervisor Angel cries out: “Watch out, mind the snake!” There on the ground we see a big red and black snake heading for Olav, and we all rush in to assist him. This species of snake is called Coral in South America, and is notorious for its lethal bite. Luckily it is also known to be shy, and normally it will not bite you unless you step on it.
This one proves to be typical of its kind, turning 180º trying to escape when Angel comes running with a long stick to knock it dead. “It is able to kill!” he shouts, visibly excited by the intruder. He misses the head, hits the spine paralysing the hinder part of the snake.
The movable part of the snake tries to drag along the meter-long tail, but in vain. Angel picks it up with a wooden stick, displaying it to the Tangaroa camera team. From this day on I will definitely never again walk barefoot in the balsa forest!
Click the images to view them in full-size
The 12 selected female logs float as if they were filled with air; close to 2/3 of them are visible above the water. Since there has been so little rain lately, and the water level is unusually low, we chose a place called Vinces further down the river for launching the logs.
Vinces is a busy place. Schools here are now closed for summer vacation, and lots of young people gather along the river banks to watch us, ”los blancitos”. Several hundred people wanted to talk to us about the expedition. Finally we hired two of them to keep guard over the rafts at night. The Navy has given us two experienced "marineros” armed with machine guns for protection, both proficient in knots and river rafting. In addition, our team consists of two guys from the Civil Defence, and two locals volunteering as crew. Later today we’ll be off!
Translation into English by Anne Thorenfeldt