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0. In 1947, the strangest craft to set sail in 500 years crossed the South Pacific from Peru to Indonesia. A Norwegian scientist called Thor Heyerdahl built the boat, Kon-Tiki, named after the Indonesian Sun God, and made the massive journey across open seas with the aim of proving his theory about the origins of the Indonesian people. (Example)
1. Heyerdahl believed that the Indonesian people had come from Peru. He said stone heads found on Easter Island were so similar to those around Lake Titicaca in Peru that there had to be a connection. But other scientists claimed that it would have been impossible for the Peruvians to make the journey across open sea. They said the stone figures had been made by Indonesians to frighten a local enemy they were fighting. Heyerdahl thought these battles were really between Indonesian natives and Peruvian invaders, and that the Peruvians could have made the journey. It was this that he wanted to prove.
2. Kon-Tiki was designed by copying pre-Columbian illustrations and paintings. It was built in Peru using local materials like wood, reeds and rope made from plants. There was no metal used at all in the construction. The finished boat was 15 metres long and 5 metres wide. The six-man crew, and a parrot called Lorita, shared a small cabin of 5 metres long and 2 metres wide. They also had to carry enough supplies for the 100-day crossing. They carried with them 1,250 litres of water and 200 coconuts as well as fruits and roots. The US Army had also given them emergency rations and survival equipment. Their diet was supplemented with the wide variety of fish that they were able to catch while at sea.
3. The crew members – four Norwegians and a Swede who went with Heyerdahl included a steward, an engineer, a sociologist and translator, a guide and radio experts. The only modern equipment they carried was a compass and a radio, which was mainly used for giving weather reports and relaying their position to the Norwegian government.
4. They set out from the Peruvian sea port of Callao on April 28th, 1947. A navy boat pulled them 50 miles out to sea before releasing them. From there they sailed west, carried along by the Humbolt current. Their first sight of land, Puka-Puka island, was made 93 days later. Four days after that they saw Angatau Island and spoke to people from there but could not land. Finally, after 101 days at sea and sailing 6,980 kilometres, they touched dry land on the desert island of Raroia. However, people from nearby islands arrived in boats and took them to their village where they were welcomed with traditional dancing and parties.
5. Heyerdahl’s trip sparked a number of reactions in other scientists. They said that he and his team hadn’t sailed but drifted, and that it was chance that they reached their destination. They also claimed that there was more evidence that the people of the Indonesian islands had originally come from the West, and not from the East. However, as recently as 2011, genetic evidence has been found which supports Heyerdahl’s claims.
6. Since the Kon-Tiki’s ambitious crossing, there have been several similar expeditions. Not all of them were successful, but in 1970, the Spanish explorer, Vital Alsar, succeeded in crossing the Pacific Ocean in the longest recorded journey of its kind. Alsar was convinced that ancient sailors could read the ocean currents like road maps. He successfully proved the point in 1973 when he repeated the voyage. More recently still, a Norwegian team recreated the trip with a copy of Thor Heyerdahl’s craft and made an award-winning documentary of the experience.
7. Thor Heyerdahl’s impressive journey has captured the imagination of generations. His book, The Kon-Tiki expedition was published in 1948 and immediately became a best-seller. His documentary, made on 8mm film, taken during the journey and including interviews with the crew, won an Academy Award in 1951. The Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo is one of the most visited places in Norway. And as recently as 2012, Kon-Tiki, the most expensive Norwegian feature film of the journey, was nominated for an Oscar.
‘The problem with the library is the lack of computers. The few they have are always taken and people have to wait ages to use one. This is worse during the summer months when we have exams. I prefer to revise in the library because it’s too noisy at home. Many of the bookshelves seem half empty, so maybe some of them could be removed and more computers installed. ‘
‘A lot of the books for children are quite old and in poor condition. They should update the collection with current authors and replace a few of the favorite classics as well. The children’s area is well organized but books get scattered about. You need a member of staff there to ensure the area is always kept tidy. There are usually three people working on the front desk, which seems unnecessary. ‘
‘I find it difficult to find things in the library. The way the shelves are arranged isn’t logical. They’re not clearly labeled and books often get put back in the wrong place. The children’s area is too close to the study area, which is supposed to be quiet. It isn’t when large school groups come in. Also, the computers are too close together and there’s not enough space to work. ‘
‘I’ve always loved the library. When I was a child it was a great place to meet friends and do homework. I still go there to go online and read the news. There’s no shortage of books, but there are so few people working there. I’ve noticed that particularly when I’ve been on a computer. There’s never anyone around to ask for help when they go wrong, which is frequently. ‘
Who thinks the library needs more staff?
Who wants less space to be taken up with books?
Who thinks the organisation of the library should be improved?
Who thinks the library should have more books?
Who thinks the library can get noisy?
Who has had technical problems with computers?
Who uses the library for study?
In Japanese art there is a technique of arranging flowers in a traditional way. (Example)