On this day - July 12th

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Ra II

The Ra II arrives I n Barbados

In the 1947, Thor Heyerdahl famously sailed the Kontiki raft from Peru to the Tuamotu islands in French Polynesia to demonstrate that ancient peoples could have migrated across the Pacific.

In 1969 and 1970, Heyerdahl built two boats from papyrus and attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco in Africa. Based on drawings and models from ancient Egypt, the first boat, named Ra (after the Egyptian Sun god), was constructed by boat builders from Lake Chad using papyrus reed obtained from Lake Tana in Ethiopia and launched into the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Morocco. After a number of weeks, Ra took on water. The crew discovered that a key element of the Egyptian boatbuilding method had been neglected, a tether that acted like a spring to keep the stern high in the water while allowing for flexibility. Water and storms eventually caused it to sag and break apart after sailing more than 4000 miles. The crew was forced to abandon Ra, some hundred miles before the Caribbean islands, and was saved by a yacht.

The following year, 1970, a similar vessel, Ra II, was built of papyrus by Demetrio, Juan and José Limachi from Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and likewise set sail across the Atlantic from Morocco, this time with great success. The boat became lost and was the subject of a United Nations search and rescue mission. Eventually, on July 12th 1970. the Ra II reached Barbados, thus demonstrating that mariners could have dealt with trans-Atlantic voyages by sailing with the Canary Current

The Ra II is now in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway.

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