Past Global Perspectives Guest Speaker
Travel with Thor Heyerdahl Jr. , who joined his Norwegian explorer father on a famous expedition to Easter Island in 1955, worked as a marine scientist doing whale research and tagging polar bears in the Arctic, and is the present-day chairman of the board at the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo.
Thor Heyerdahl Jr. has had a hand in some of the greatest expeditions of modern time. His father, Thor Heyerdahl, is best known for his work in recognizing the cultural similarities in communities separated by vast swaths of ocean. Early on, Heyerdahl Sr. proposed that natives of South America sailed across the Pacific Ocean to populate the Polynesian islands. But instead of the passive researcher’s speculation, Heyerdahl built a primitive craft like the ones Polynesians would have used, and sailed on the voyage along with five of his compatriots. He made a career of voyages like this, seeking to prove the plausibility of early cultures stretching across all the world’s oceans.
Thor Heyerdahl Jr. joined his father on one such expedition. He served as a deckhand and archaeological assistant on the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to East Island and the East Pacific in 1955-56. This voyage and research would come to be known by the public through the book and documentary film Aku-Aku.
Two years after that expedition, Thor Heyerdahl Jr. graduated from high school and then attended the Military Academy. He served as a tank commander, patrolling the Norwegian border along what used to be the Soviet Union.
He went on to study natural sciences at the University of California, majoring in marine biology and graduating as Master of Science from the University of Oslo in 1970.
He has researched whales off the coasts of Greenland, tagged live polar bears in the Arctic, monitored pollution in the North Sea, and studied fisheries in Norwegian costal waters—all while working as a marine scientist at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway.
Since 1990, Thor Heyerdahl Jr. has served as director and later the chairman of the board of the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, which houses the primitive ships his father built to sail across the world’s oceans and test his theories. For many years, the museum has been engaged in archaeological and ethnographical research in the Pacific area, mainly Easter Island and Peru.
Thor Heyerdahl Jr. is an author of a multitude of publications and articles, and has served as a guest speaker for the National Geographic Society. We welcome him aboard and look forward to his deep well of first-hand knowledge of polar bears on Land of the Ice Bears: An In-depth Exploration of Arctic Svalbard.
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