10 questions for Torgeir Higraff, the Kon-Tiki2 Expedition leader, by Håkon Wium Lie.
You plan to sail rafts from Peru to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) – and back! How will you make this happen?
In principle, it's quite simple. First, we cut down 44 balsa trees in Ecuador assisted by balsa experts in 3A Composites. Then, at the SIMA shipyard in Callao, and with assistance from the Peruvian Navy, we tie the logs together into two rafts. Then we add mast, sail, and – most importantly – guares – or centerboards. After that, we sail for about six weeks and 5000 kilometers until we reach Rapa Nui. There we turn around and head back to South America.
Why do you build two rafts?
Building two rafts isn't that much more work than building one. And two teams on two rafts are safer.
Any other safety concerns?
A raft is quite safe and steady. If a sailboat hits something, it may sink – it's heavier than water. A raft will still float. Needless to say, the safety of all personnel is the highest priority. The rafts are fitted with transponders and beacons from Jotron in the event that an emergency requires a search and rescue response. We are in daily contact with Radio Medico who, in case an injury, assists the doctor in the crew via satellite communications.
Will you have any other modern-day equipment on board?
Yes. Both rafts will be equipped with sophisticated satellite communications and a broad range of media capabilities. The crews will provide frequent updates to social media, as well as perform a range of experiments and tests with regards to water quality and marine animal diversity.
What do the guara centerboards do?
They are hardwood planks that are used as movable keels on the rafts. By changing their position and depth in water, we can steer the rafts. We used these with great success on the Tangaroa Expedition.
Right, Kon-tiki2 is not your first expedition. In 2006, the Tangaroa expedition sailed from Peru to French Polynesia. How is Kon-tiki2 different from Tangaroa?
Tangaroa followed in the wake of Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki expedition, which was one-way only. Tangaroa beat Kon-Tiki by 31 days to the atoll Raroia, and our captian Bjarne Krekvik continued steering through the dangerous Tuamoto archipelago, all the way to Raiatea and Tahiti. Kon-Tiki2 will build on this great experience, but will travel roundtrip!
Will you follow the same route back to South America?
Not quite. From Rapa Nui, the course is due south for almost 1,000 miles until we reach the infamous Roaring Forties where we find strong winds for eastward sailing. We end up in the cold waters of the Humboldt current (Peruvian Current). Doing so we will do what no one has done before in modern times.
So, you will need to put on some clothes?
Yes, alpaca wool and some more.
Have others tried to sail a raft from Easter Island to South America?
Eric de Bisschop's Tahiti-Nui is the only raft which has come close to making the passage from Polynesia to South America. It was made from bamboo, not balsa, and the raft broke apart and sank before they reached the shores.
What will you eat and drink on the raft?
In ancient times, rationing resources would have been a skill in itself. We know from the historical record that crews carried massive quantities of water in large gourds and hollowed bamboo containers and likely subsisted on dried potatoes and fresh seafood. We will not live entirely on ancient provisions, but also bring Norwegian bread from Baker Hansen and dried deer meat from my family farm in Norddalsfjord.
(And Håkon will bring some bottles of apple juice from his apple farm to go along with the meat :)