Kon-Tiki2 Crew Ashore in Moscow
On March 1, 2017, the State Darwin Museum of Moscow hosted a much-awaited public appearance of Kon-Tiki2 crew – almost a year after the expedition's abrupt termination. Torgeir Sæverud Higraff, Boris Romanov, Andrey Chesnokov, Håkon Wium Lie, Pål Børresen and Evegny Schtil spoke to the public.
In spite of our real-time virtual presence aboard the rafts throughout the journey, what we saw and heard on Wednesday were some other pictures and a very much different view of the causes and consequences, along with some new emotion too. Torgeir spoke in much detail of his previous expedition – the Tangaroa – comparing it to Kon-Tiki2. «2006: I am in paradise and my dreams come true; 2016: a totally different picture». A different route (the leg from South America was completed and the return leg was not), a different raft design (Tangaroa rafts could have spent a year at sea), and, according to Torgeir, substantial deterioration in Ocean condition over the past ten years – in terms of the climate, the weather, plants and animals, etc.. He did emphasize the miscroplastic issue repeatedly, begging us to pay special attention, as otherwise «we would soon be finding pieces of plastic on our dinner plates».
Speaking specifically of Kon-Tiki2, Torgeir focused on people, the team, and everyone's special role. There's still some sort of rivalry between the female and male rafts, and Torgeir mentioned Rahiti's military camp discipline as opposed to Tupac's immensely fun and somewhat «couldn't care less» setup.
It's amazing how Torgeir seems to be still there, to keep sailing and living through the highs and lows of the mission, to keep loving every moment of it and mourning the expedition's ostensibly premature and abrupt ending. I didn't even dare to ask him whether he thinks this was a proof that sailing from Rapa Nui to South America is impossible, or just a misfortune. He kept saying «I was so happy» and «this has been a nightmare» or «these were the best days ever». He said that dismantling the rafts before evacuation was the toughest task ever: «in a male world, this is the closest one gets to abortion». (Which means the goal of reaching South America was the «baby», not the journey itself! Honestly, I could not disagree more! To us, the very fact that the mission happened has been way more important that the actual proof of the Polynesian genome hypothesis).
Torgeir is definitely a charismatic speaker, a born leader, and a highly handsome human being. I wanted to yell out «Hey, man, quit being upset, let's do another one!», but nobody dared to translate this for me :) But people still kept asking him about Kon-Tiki3, 4, 5 etc. He replied that his next mission will be on Chukotka (!) and asked for some phone numbers. As to Kon-Tiki3, his wife is likely to have some objections (which is understandable keeping Chukotka in mind).
Other crew members looked way more relaxed and calm. Torgeir's emotional and rapid slide show was followed by Evgeny Schtil's short film (or rather a collage) dissecting the expedition – with both cute details (like 200 books aboard the two rafts and 2 sweaters knitted by Signe) and some heart-breaking facts of evacuation and weight loss. Evgeny believes they needed more wine, condensed milk, meat preserves, and lard on board. On the other hand, he was pleasantly surprised by freshly baked bread and buns instead of the usual dry crackers. By the way, Evgeny did quite a few drawings, and Torgeir said that the mission needed such an artistic person aboard.
The audience has been a pleasure to watch, with many faces being familiar – from the Russian Kon-Tiki2 fan page on Facebook and elsewhere. The discussion part turned out to be a bit short – we definitely needed more time to debate the rumors and versions of what happened. The audience was well-prepared, so it could have been quite an argument. But Torgeir was wearing a suit! Our numerous kids made the whole thing less formal by both roaming around the conference hall and asking questions like «is he speaking English for a reason?», «what did you do when you were drowning?», «why didn't you have a phone?», etc. After the event the Norwegians took a picture with the bunch naming it «The Crew of Kon-Tiki15». That would certainly be fun.
For some reason, no one mentioned the books and movies they were all conceiving while on the rafts. Rumors are, Torgeir and Evgeny Schtil are editing videos and deciding on film formats, while Andrey Chesnokov has almost finished a book surpassing Thor Heyerdahl's epic writing...
Poet Elena Albul has asked a very deep question, something like: «the ones new to ocean voyages are all speaking of something new they discovered about themselves during the journey. But what is the romantic/transformative appeal of the mission for such an experienced explorer as Torgeir?» The matter was lost in translation, so Torgeir replied with delay and to a question never asked, or maybe the tough Norwegians couldn't care less about some stupid romantic appeal. That's what he said: «I enjoy having people as slaves. Håkon managed technical support. Pål did human resources. Adnrey performed routine operations on the raft. Boris and Sergey were mission doctors. Everyone had a job and I needed them all as professionals. As to me, I just love being at sea, this is my life».
While Kon-Tiki2 was at sea, Ole Bjørndalen won yet another gold medal, so we asked Torgeir via Andrey «What's your Norwegian secret?». He replied: «There's no secret. All he has in life are his skis and his rifle. He just keeps skiing and shooting all the time». Well, Torgeir, as I see him, just keeps sailing. We wish him all the luck right where he belongs – between the Ocean and the Skies! And he can always count on Russians for romantic appeal, deep meanings, and medical assistance.