In 1947 Thor Heyerdal, a Nowegian ethnographer* working in Polynesia, came up with the theory that the islands of Polynesia were not initially settled by Asians, as was the belief at the time, but by South Americans. He theorized that some peoples from South America boarded a balsa raft and by the ocean currents and the eastward winds made it across the Pacific Ocean, some 8000 kilometers (4300 miles).
Now, if you look at a map, you would think he was off his rocker, which is what the National Geographic Society told him when he approached them about sponsoring the trip. Well, no spoiler here, he was able to get funding through loans and donations and he and five men left Peru on their balsa raft, the Kon-Tiki. The journey was no easy feat. At times there was doubt about the direction of the currents, there were sharks, and the desolation of the huge Pacific ocean. But in 101 days, they arrived in Polynesia proving his theory.
Thor filmed the voyage and produced a documentary about trip that was released in 1950 and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1951. He also wrote a book on the voyage that was translated in 70 languages and sold more than 50 million copies. This 2012 film, Kon-Tiki, (with Pål Sverre Hagen playing the part of Heyerdal) is not a remake of the documentary but the story of how he arrived at his theory, trying to get support for the trip, and of course the trip itself. Original footage from the actual trip is peppered throughout the movie which is fascinating because it makes you realize how well the recreation is done.
As we sat in the theater, waiting for the movie to start, I turned to my DH and said, "If there is a tiger on this raft, I'm leaving." (in reference to the interminable miserable voyage in "Life of Pi") But this film kept my attention the entire time, I never tired of the voyage, never felt parts of the recreation were "hokey" or over done. The story is incredible and shows modern day exploration. It makes me want to find a copy of the 1950 documentary to watch.
*ethnography -The branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures.