Visiting the Kon Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway

The countries in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland) have always been world renowned for their exploring and adventurous cultures. From the earliest centuries, they charted unknown lands, spent months if not years at sea, colonized and conquered, and inspired others to do the same simply for the love of adventure and wanting their name to be remembered.

On my most recent trip to Norway, I learned about one more modern individual than the rest when it came to travel adventures. In the heart of Oslo, Norway, the Kon Tiki Museum has been dedicated to showcasing the exploits of Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl.

He is probably one of history’s greatest and maddest modern explorers. It is quite the museum that was constructed around him, his life, and his exploits which has become a fascinating and popular attraction both for the locals and tourists.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Kon-TIki Museum in Oslo to learn about Thor Heyerdahl and his travel exploits.

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The Man, The Myth, The Mad Legend

Born in Larvik, Norway during the early 1910s, Thor Heyerdahl became an ethnographer (study of individual cultures). He also focused his studies on zoology, geography, and botany at the University of Oslo. His passion for Polynesian culture and history was something he pursued in his private time.

His travels started in French Polynesia which led to his most famous expedition. This extended with exploration and discovery from the Galapagos Islands to the Easter Islands, Maldives, and Peru in the span of 55 years, from 1937 to 1992.

What was he trying to prove?

Thor Heyerdahl’s original theories were that there was trans-oceanic contact between multiple cultures halfway around the world from each other. He believed that the indigenous people of Polynesia had originated from South America.

They could and had sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Polynesia’s island regions before Columbus helped to discover America. The hypothetical theory included that South American origins helped to populate and influence those islands both culturally, genetically, and archaeologically.  This would have been during the 13th to 14th centuries.

His peers in anthropology circles during this time considered all the information he provided to be circumstantial, theoretical, and just a little short of intelligent thinking. He wanted to prove this by constructing a raft using only materials and the technology that would have been available during that period of exploration and sailing it across the Pacific from one location to another.

These theories were later disapproved using scientific methods. DNA genetic testing along with cultural evidence showed that the Asian mainland is where the original inhabitants had started before journeying to the islands.

But the journey inspired other adventurers around them. A half-dozen other seafarers and researchers led recreated expeditions, following similar routes.

Visiting the Kon-Tiki Museum

Once you enter the Kon-Tiki Museum, your eyes will go straight to the main attraction that draws so many people.

In the museum’s center is the original raft used in sea-faring adventures. Constructed only from materials that would have been available during that time in South America, it is an impressive display of craftsmanship.

The raft comprised balsa tree trunks, bamboo, mangrove wood, and reeds. No metal was used in its construction. It was intended for a 6-person crew which Thor filled with not only personal friends but those who had experience in navigation, radio and telegraphing, maritime, and engineering. Each one brought something special and unique to the table.

Much-needed supplies of canned food, survival equipment, modern communication equipment, and medical supplies were provided by the United States military. This was in exchange for information and reports on how well they survived the journey and quality to see if they would still be in continued use.

The Kon-Tiki Journey

Along the museum walls, you can follow the progress of the Kon-tiki from beginning to end, which took 101 days at sea not including the time for construction, logistics, and training. The exhibits recount the preparations taken, its seafaring challenges and near-fatal occurrences, and the successful endeavor when they finally landed.

I enjoyed their day-to-day activities and how the raft was operated because sailing in the ocean like that you would need to find interesting ways to pass the time. While the crew worked and rested in shifts to ensure they remained on course and within the parameters, it was still very slow in travel compared to the more modern technologies we had at that time and even more so today.

Starting in Peru, they made their way west through the open sea until arriving in the French Polynesian Islands. Well, crashed is more like it. After encountering and striking a reef they were grounded, completing the journey as far as they could. And within good time.

In the screening room, they play the Oscar-winning documentary created from footage Thor Heyerdahl recorded. They include the landscapes of where they traveled to during a period of lesser modern amenities and construction, and how the team spent their time together.

The Second Boat

Though the main reason for the museum is for the Kon-tiki, there is a second smaller exhibit detailing the later sailing exploits again of Thor. This time it was his journey during the 1970s on the Ra II, a vessel this time made from reeds and papyrus to showcase what he perceived would be a sailing boat in Ancient Egypt.

The crew consisted of an international coalition of Italian, American, Moroccan, Russian, Egyptian, Mexican, and Japanese.

This journey started in South Africa and made its way to the Caribbean. So, you can see how his earlier adventures inspired more and more people to join him in his endeavors.

Guide for Visiting the Kon-Tiki Museum


Where is the Kon-Tiki Museum located?

The Kon-tiki Museum is in what has been nicknamed the “museum peninsula.” This stretch of area contains several different museums which you can buy joint entry and spend part of your day each, including the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, The Viking Museum, and the Fram Museum. Any one of these would be a perfect addition to your travel itinerary through Oslo.

Admission tickets: It is always recommended to book your ticket in advance, you can click here to buy your ticket.

Hours: Kon-Tiki Museum is open every day, seven days a week, from 10:00 to 17:00. During Summer the museum stays open until 18:00 and from June to August it opens at 09:30.

Written by Nick from The World Overload

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