The Robinson LibraryTHE ROBINSON LIBRARY
The Robinson Library >> Geography >> Special Voyages and Travels
The Voyage of the Ra

In 1969 Thor Heyerdahl attempted to prove that ancient North Africans could have sailed to the Americas.

Twenty-two years after sailing his Kon Tiki across the Pacific to show that South Americans could have been the first to populate Polynesia, Thor Heyerdahl proposed that strong currents and trade winds could have carried North African sailors to the Americas more than 3,000 years ago. To prove this theory, Heyerdahl supervised construction of a papyrus reed boat designed according to paintings found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Built in Giza, Egypt, the ship was dragged across the desert on wooden tracks and then transported by truck to Safi, Morocco.

moving the Ra across the desert
moving the Ra across the desert

preparing the Ra for launch, at Safi
preparing the Ra for launch, at Safi

On May 25, 1969, Heyerdahl and his six-man crew began their 4,000 transatlantic voyage to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Although the improperly loaded Ra foundered in the Atlantic 56 days and 2,700 miles later, forcing him to abandon his ship, Heyerdahl refused to abandon his theory and almost immediately began making plans to try again. Ra II successfully sailed from Morocco to Barbados the following year.

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Geography >> Special Voyages and Travels

This page was last updated on 05/25/2017.