Bucking expert opinion, a young Norwegian anthropologist sets out on a balsa log raft to show that pre-Columbian voyagers from South America might well have traveled to the Pacific islands.
Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 voyage moved the dial from “impossible” to “possible,” but not to “probable,” and as the author herself admits in an afterword, there is still little credible evidence of any sustained westward migration. Nonetheless, the tale of that 4,300-nautical-mile journey makes a grand one. Ray’s prose describes how he sailed with his crew of five from Peru without escort through seas calm and wild, supplementing stored provisions with caught fish, braving months of sudden rogue waves and damaging storms on the way to a final shipwreck on a Polynesian reef. Ray uses watercolors to create soft-edged views of the raft and its small crew, varying her perspectives and her palette as much as possible to avoid potential monotony. One sunset image with the raft in the distance and a school of flying fish in the foreground is particularly effective. She heads her matter-of-fact narrative with quotes from Heyerdahl’s bestselling account on each page, closing with further commentary and a biographical note.
A low-key tribute to a now little-remembered expedition that is still capable of catching the imagination. (map, notes, resource lists) (Informational picture book. 7-9)