On this day in 1970, Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and a multinational crew set out from Morocco across the Atlantic Ocean in Ra II, a papyrus sailing craft modeled after ancient Egyptian sailing vessels. Thor had some notions about the origins of the population of Polynesia and the potential exchange of ideas between early people of Africa and South and Central America. For the most part Thor’s ideas have filed to convince most anthropologists. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to remember his fascination with ancient watercraft.
To try to prove that the Polynesian people originated from South America, which would theoretically be a more easily accomplished task since the water currents in the Pacific naturally flow from East to West, Thor build a copy of a prehistoric South American raft out of balsa wood. He and a small crew sailed his raft, Kon Tiki, from Peru to Polynesia in 1947, covering about 5,000 miles of ocean over 101 days. Not to be outdone he made his first attempt at crossing the Atlantic in a papyrus boat, Ra, in 1969. Alas, poor Ra had some issues and foundered 600 miles short of its goal. In 1970, Ra II was successful making the crossing.
Just in case you didn’t catch it, papyrus is what the ancient Egyptians used to make, wait for it, paper! And balsa wood is what you use to build toy airplanes. So basically this guy convinced other people to sail toy, paper boats across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Too bad he’s dead and unable to be recruited as a fund raiser, because, seriously, if you can convince people to do something that bat-$#!t crazy, how hard would it be for you to convince someone to pony up a few million to further the great ends of the church? There’s got to be a metaphor in there about God using the foolish to confound the wise, so for you preachers on staff, there’s a seed for a sermon illustration you can use without citing your source or paying me a royalty.
Thought for the day: Tell someone you love them today, because life is short. Shout it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.