Saturday, April 28, 2007

South Seas Cinema: Kon-Tiki

Welcome to South Seas Cinema, a series of posts about films set in – or pertaining to – Polynesia and the South Pacific.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the original Kon-Tiki voyage; thus, choosing the voyage's corresponding documentary as this month's South Seas Cinema review seemed only natural. The film, Kon-Tiki, records the 1947 transpacific voyage of Norwegian scientist, Thor Heyerdahl, and his crew of four Norwegians and a Swede adventures at sea, as they set out to prove the plausibility of a hunch.

While in the Marquesas for a zoological expedition, Heyerdahl noticed that prevailing winds and ocean currents from the Americas appeared to greatly affect the islands’ flora and fauna. From this observation, he began to doubt the general consensus that Polynesians’ ancestors had taken a direct westerly route when colonizing the region. Heyerdahl suggested that, although all Pacific Rim peoples originally had hailed from Southeast Asia, the route from there to Polynesia had followed the prevailing winds and currents from Northwest America.

In 1947, Heyerdahl and his crew of four Norwegians and a Swede set out to prove his theory was plausible by sailing more than 4000 miles from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands aboard a balsawood raft constructed in prehistoric South American style. Heyerdahl dubbed the raft Kon-Tiki, after the legend of a seafaring sun-king that Heyerdahl proposed to be common among ancient Incas and early Polynesians.

So incredible was the Kon-Tiki voyage that many scientists refused to believe that it actually happened. It wasn’t until the 1951 release of the Kon-Tiki documentary about the expedition was released that academics began to take notice – along with the rest of the world. Later that year, Kon-Tiki went on to receive the Oscar for best documentary.

Although, most anthropologists continue to believe, based upon a preponderance of evidence, that Polynesia was settled from west to east, Kon-Tiki proved that Polynesia was within range of prehistoric South Americans and went on to further inform and enhance research pertaining to the settlement of the Pacific Rim. But more than these accomplishments, the expedition captured the imagination of millions.

Perhaps more than anything, Kon-Tiki (along with Heyerdahl et al’s subsequent South Pacific adventures) firmly placed the word “Tiki” into the psyche and vernacular of a generation, inspiring a plethora of products, such as dinnerware, board games and several books. Would Polynesian Pop, as we know it today, even exist if it weren’t for this plucky theorist and his crew of Scandinavian adventurers?

South Seas Cinema is sponsored by
+44 20 (0) 7947 359 456
+44 20 (0) 7950 674 636

1 comment:

Upena haku said...

I am from the South Seas Cinema Society who for the last few years have researched, documented and promoted South Seas Cinema as a ligitimate film genre. Good job Tiki Chris in helping to spread the word on this subject. Not only do you recognize this genre you use the exact term "South Seas Cinema" that we use to refer to this old but unrecognized film category. To see some of our work check out We should cross link. Keep up the good work.

More Stuff

Search Tiki Chris Presents ...

Latest ontoTravel

Latest ontoLondon


Don't Get it?

If you like this blog ...

Blog Archive