EXPIRED: 12/25/09 – Knut Haugland, 92, was the last of the six Norwegian crewmen who crossed the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki balsa wood raft in 1947. Why would they do such a thing? Simply to prove a point.
The expedition was launched from Peru by anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl to demonstrate that South Americans could have settled Polynesia.
The Kon-Tiki sailed with basic equipment for 4,900 miles.
During World War II, Haugland was member of the Norwegian resistance movement. He met Thor Heyerdahl in 1944 at a paramilitary training camp in England. It was here that Haugland first heard of Heyerdahl’s theories about Polynesian migration patterns, and his plans to cross the Pacific on a balsa wood raft. In 1947 Haugland was invited by Heyerdahl to join the Kon-Tiki expedition as a radio operator.
On the expedition Haugland and Torstein Raaby (another former resistance member) were in frequent radio contact with American amateur operators, sending meteorological and hydrographic data to be passed on to the Meteorological Institute in Washington, DC. Despite the tiny radio which had an output of only 6 watts — about the same as a small battery-powered flashlight — they managed to contact radio operators in Norway, even sending a telegram to congratulate King Haakon VII on his 75th birthday.
Haugland appeared in the 1950 documentary film, Kon-Tiki, as himself of course and was subsequently honored by Britain for his role in helping to disrupt Nazi plans to create nuclear weapons.
He left the Air Force in 1963 to become acting, and later permanent, director of the Norway’s Resistance Museum. He retired from this position in 1983.He was also the director of the Kon-Tiki Museum from its start in 1947 to 1990. He rounded off his career as board chairman of the Kon-Tiki Museum in 1991.