Crossing the Ocean In A Reed Boat

This balsa raft carried Thor Heyerdahl and his crew of five men across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.

Around 3,000 years ago, important cultures emerged in Egypt and Peru. They had a number of similarities. Both cultures built pyramids, were familiar with the art of writing, worshiped the sun, and mummified their dead. But most important of all, in Heyerdahl’s eyes, were the reed boats. While ancient Egyptians sailed boats made of bundles of papyrus on the Nile, the indigenous people of Peru sailed around Lake Titicaca using boats woven from the local totora reed. Heyerdahl thought there had to be a connection; that there must have been contact between the two cultures.

Heyerdahl set out to prove that it was possible to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in a reed boat according to the ancient Egyptian design. Heyerdahl’s preparations for this voyage included studying models based on the well-preserved pictures and reliefs of reed boats found on the walls of the pharaohs’ burial chambers, in the Valley of the Kings.  For the experiment to be of scientific value, the reed boat had to be constructed as close to the original model as possible. Heyerdahl enlisted the help of the Aymara Natives from Lake Titicaca to build the raft. And a fine job they did!

The voyage of 8,000km lasted 101 days with the aid of wind patterns and ocean currents. Thus it was shown that people from early South American civilization could have reached Polynesia with seafaring vessels. And further proved that a journey of such great expanse (like a voyage across the Atlantic) was possible!


  1. It is written that the bulrushes grew along side the rivers on the continent of Africa, that they grew in no other places unless transplanted there by ancient mariners.

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