Refills can be purchased at Downton Brewery, Dark Revolution Brewery (Old Sarum Airfield), Healthy Living (Devizes) & Regent Tailoring in Salisbury.


“Pearls rarely turn up in oysters served to you on a plate; you have to dive for them.” Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl was Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany and geography famed for the ‘Kon Tiki’ expedition, where he and five others crossed the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood craft – one of modern history's greatest achievements watched by a shattered world following WWII.

Small Seperator, Downton Distillery, Wiltshire


Thor grew up in Norway and whilst studying zoology and geography at the University of Oslo, he was influenced by the worlds largest collection of Polynesian literature amassed by the Kroepelien family. After university he travelled to Fatu Hiv, the southernmost island of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia and began to wonder how Pacific inhabitants had reached the islands.

It was an accepted theory at the time that the islands of the South Pacific had been colonised by people travelling east by sea from Asia, however he thought it might have been possible for settlers to travel west from South America.

His opinion was that the famous stone Moai statues of the Easter islands had a closer resemblance to the ancient people of South America than those of East Asia and that they could have travelled as far west as the Polynesian islands of the South Pacific.

Having put his theories forward academics seized upon them using the vast distances as a counter argument, after all the distance from South America to Easter Island was more than 3,700km. The closest Polynesian Island was 7,900km from South America. When looking at maps the South Sea Islands are tiny specks in a vast ocean of blue, how could the ancients have found their way?

Kon Tiki Expedition, Spirit of Adventure, Downton Distillery
Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002)
Small Seperator, Downton Distillery, Wiltshire
Kon Tiki Expedition, Spirit of Adventure, Downton Distillery
Kon Tiki Map
Kon Tiki Expedition, Spirit of Adventure, Downton Distillery
Thor's Project Diary


Thor was keen to prove his theory right and with the conclusion of WWII, he started to plan his voyage in 1947. He decided that he would use only materials and building techniques which would have been available to the ancients over one thousand years ago.

Thor’s fellow crew were all resistance fighters who had fought alongside him during WWII. Each member was a specialist in their own fields. Herman Watzinger was a maritime engineer and meteorologist. Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby were radio experts who would maintain contact with the land-based support crews and nearby vessels. Bengt Danielsson oversaw logistics and sourced the materials for building the raft. Erik Hesselberg was the only professional sailor amongst the crew.

The team travelled to Peru and started to build the ’Kon Tiki’ using hand drawings created by Spanish Conquistadores who had sketched the traditional sailing craft. The raft used Balsa wood which is light weight and easy to shape. A bamboo cabin was weaved with a thick layer of banana leaves for the roofing. The sail was created out of bamboo weave and the mast was made from mangrove wood, known to be robust against the ocean elements. Over 2kms of hemp rope was used to bind the raft together. They selected materials that would allow for easy repairs and manoeuvre on a rolling deck.

The raft was named the ‘Kon Tiki’ after the Incan Sun God.

Small Seperator, Downton Distillery, Wiltshire


The raft was supplied with canned goods, and the US Military provided water containers. Thor recalls entering the cabin as they started their journey bumping into clusters of bananas, fruit baskets and sacks hurled into the small space.

The ‘Kon Tiki’ was towed out of harbour on 28th April 1947 and Thor was confident that the expedition would be a success. His confidence was resting on two geographical factors:  the first was the Humboldt Current, which starts off the Peruvian coast and flows west: the second was the prevailing trade winds, which blew from east to the west.

Every morning they cooked the flying fish that fell on their ship during the night. An ecosystem composed of algae and crustaceans appeared under the raft, which attracted a range of fish fauna, from dolphins to tuna and 10-metre-long whale sharks that almost sank the raft in one incident.

The journey progressed without major incidents, and they survived three massive rogue waves that followed each other during a calm night. On 30th July, the crew sighted land, the Puka-Puka atoll, part of the Cook Islands, but were unable to steer the raft towards the atoll.

On 7th August, their journey ended when the raft was beached on a coral reef near the uninhabited Raroia Atoll. After 101 days at sea they had travelled nearly 7,000km  with the help of the ocean’s currents – an amazing achievement.

Thor Heyerdahl and his crew had successfully demonstrated that it was possible to cross the Pacific from Peru by drifting with the currents.

Small Seperator, Downton Distillery, Wiltshire


Kon Tiki island in the Tuamoto Island Tahiti. French Polynesia, Downton Distillery
Tuamoto Island, Tahiti, where the expedition finished
THOR HEYERDAHL, Downton Distillery
Thor on RA II
Kon Tiki, Adventure, Downton Distillery
Kon Tiki in Oslo

Thor wrote down his memories of the expedition in his awe-inspiring book "Kon-Tiki" published in 1950. In 1970 he successfully sailed across the Atlantic on the Ra II, made from papyrus reeds, proving earlier civilisations could have navigated across the oceans. Heyerdahl continued his exploratory existence by setting up various expeditions to Easter Island, Egypt or the Canaries. He died in Norway in 2002 at the age of eighty-seven.

Since the ‘Kon Tiki’ completed its epic journey, there have been many other attempts and successful journeys across the Pacific. In 2012 a Norwegian film was released about the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. It was the country's most expensive production to date.

Small Seperator, Downton Distillery, Wiltshire


Offical Trailer of the Kon Tiki Expedition

Small Seperator, Downton Distillery, Wiltshire
More » Less «
  • List
  • Map