Thor Heyerdahl's reed boat 'Ra II', 1970.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model. Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) was a Norwegian anthropologist who undertook a variety of expeditions using boats manufactured according to ancient indigenous technologies. His aim was to prove that ancient seafarers had travelled much further than previously suspected. The Ra II was constructed of papyrus, and in 1970, Heyerdahl sailed the vesel from Safi, an ancient Phoenician port in Morocco, to Barbados. This expedition proved that it was quite posible that Columbus was not the first navigator to cros the Atlantic. Heyerdahl's best-known exploit was probably the Kon-Tiki expedition of 1947, in which he crosed the Pacific from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa raft, taking 101 days to complete the journey.