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Tidal Cultures


The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1950); The Ra Expeditions (1970) Thor Heyerdahl

The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1950); The Ra Expeditions (1970) Thor Heyerdahl
These are classic books about the sea.  I first read these two books when I was in my early teens and they have echoed through my thoughts ever since.  Although you hear little about Heyerdahl these days, his writings were highly influential in popularising adventure-based exploration and writing, and no doubt have had influence on many others, including perhaps Life of Pi.  His expeditions were based on theories that populations moved around the globe and were able to travel the high seas on small hand-built craft - rafts.  He used his experiments to gather evidence.  His work brought together ideas of culture, natural sciences, geography, anthropology adventure and daring; his writings were compelling and reflected all these, with rhythm that lulls you like the ocean.   

'It was as though the fresh salt tang in the air, and all the blue purity that surrounded us, had washed and cleansed both body and soul.  to us on the raft the great problems of civilised man appeared false and illusory, mere perverted products of the human mind.  Only the elements mattered.  And the elements seems to ignore the little raft.  Or perhaps they accepted it as a natural object which did not break the harmony of the sea, but which adapted itself to current and sea like bird and fish.  Instead of being a fearsome enemy, flinging itself at us in foam, the elements had become a reliable friend which steadily and surely helped us onward.  While wind and waves pushed and propelled, the ocean current lay under us and pulled, straight towards our goal'  (Chapter V, 1950, 6th imp. p.97)