Many early explorers were motivated by the quest for fame, gold and power. Because of their desire to gain riches, they weren’t always respectful of the native people and cultures they encountered. In many cases, explorers brought disease and destruction with them.
But what if an explorer had a different motive? What if his motive was not for power or riches, but for education and understanding? Thor Heyerdahl was just such an explorer. Born in Norway in 1914, Thor gained an early love of nature and geography from his mother, who owned a museum. When he was still in elementary school, he opened a one-room museum in his house that featured information about animals. Thor spent his entire life studying and learning about the people, plants and animals of the world. He especially loved the Polynesian people and went on many expeditions there.
Fun Facts About Thor Heyerdahl for Kids
- Thor’s first expedition was to the Polynesian Islands, where he was adopted by the Supreme King of Tahiti, Teriieroo. He stayed there for more than one year, living a traditional Polynesian life. He didn’t want to change the people or their ways. He wanted to understand them and learn from them.
- He disagreed with the idea that people had migrated from Asia or the Middle East to come to Polynesia. He thought they came from the western side of North and South America. To prove his theory, he traveled from Peru in a tiny raft to the Polynesian Islands. Later, he discovered South American artifacts and tools on these islands, proving his theory.
- Thor Heyerdahl is famous for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America.
- Thor also visited Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Pichu.
- Thor continued to travel and study until he was a very old man. He won many awards and was happy doing the thing he loved best – exploring and learning.
Thor Heyerdahl Vocabulary
- Motive: a person’s goal or desire
- Respectful: treats others with respect
- Encounter: meeting
- Expedition: trip, adventure, exploration
- Artifact: dishes, art, weapons or other materials left by ancient people
All About Thor Heyerdahl Video for Kids
Here’s a great video for kids all about Thor Heyerdahl:
Thor Heyerdahl Q&A
Question: Did Thor always know that he wanted to be an explorer?
Answer: Thor always loved learning, but he didn’t always plan on being an explorer. He was very afraid of the water when he was a child. As an adult, most of the expeditions of Thor Heyerdahl involved travel by boat.
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