Illustration by Coopertoons.
On April 18, 2002, Thor Heyerdahl, 87, the adventurous Norwegian anthropologist, world-traveler, explorer, filmmaker, and author died of cancer in Italy, after a long illness. Cryptozoologically, he had several encounters through his life and maintained an interest in the field. For example, Heyerdahl had an intriguing encounter while on his honeymoon in 1937, were he sighted an unidentified mysterious wingless bird on the South Pacific island of Hiva-Oa, which he relates in his 1974 book Fatu-Hiva, Back to Nature. In 1980, cryptozoologist Michel Raynal interviewed Heyerdahl about the incident, reconfirming the significance of the sighting.
In April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl set sail from the Peruvian coast in the 45-foot Kon Tiki. Taking 101 days and 4,300 miles, the project demonstrated that voyages across the oceans were a possibility, proving his theory that Polynesia was populated from South America, and not southeast Asia as previously assumed. During the journey, Heyerdahl saw, near the Kon Tiki raft, strange phosphorescent animals and other extremely large unknown creatures in the middle of the night that have never been identified.
Heyerdahl in 1944 first met a Norwegian resistance fighter named Knut Haugland 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.
The Norwegian resistance fighter would help prevent the German nuclear program from getting heavy water to make weapons, during Operation Grouse, and be decorated by the British in World War II for his service.
After the war, Haugland joined Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition in 1947 as a radio operator.
Haugland played, of course, himself in the 1950 documentary film Kon-Tiki. The movie, which was directed by Thor Heyerdahl and edited by Olle Nordemar, received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature at the 24th Academy Awards in 1951. The Oscar officially went to Olle Nordemar. It is the only feature film from Norway to win an Academy Award. He would found the Kon-Tiki Museum.
Now, Knut Magne Haugland, 92, the last of six crew members who crossed the Pacific Ocean on board the balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki, has died of natural causes on Friday, Christmas Day, in an Oslo, Sweden, hospital, according to Kon-Tiki Museum Director Maja Bauge.