Tuesday, August 7, 2007

History's Minor Moments

Whenever my brain freezes and I can't break a creative thought free of that ice flow, I turn to 'Moments in History. ' It amazes me how many diverse things happen through history on one particular date. Today I found the History Channel's "This Day in History."

On August 7, the dollar shrank. Literally got smaller. The treasury redesigned and issued the new currency that features many icons we recognize today. George Washington creates the first purple heart medal, Teddy Roosevelt is nominated by the Bull Moose Party, and keeping with a presidential theme -- tomorrow is the date Nixon resigned.

This is also the date in 1947, that the Kon-Tiki, a wooden raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completed its 4,300 mile journey from Peru to Raroia, near Tahiti.

I've had fantasies about becoming a travel writer. Exploring the world and writing about it. But never did I think that riding a wooden raft on the open ocean would be a fun thing.

I remember the hype and excitement when Heyerdahl built a second Kon-Tiki. Even then, it didn't make much sense to me. Obviously I was a minority in this attitude because the subsequent book became a best seller and Heyerdahl's documentary about the voyage became an Academy Award winning documentary in 1951. Little boys played cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and raft riding on the ocean in Kon-Tiki.

The raft was a copy of a an ancient Egyptian papyrus vessel and in 1969 Heyerdahl recreated the raft once again. I was a junior in high school. Truthfully I was much more interested in dating and boys, than in some old guy working with a Burundi tribe from Chad in Central Africa to build a replica of an even older raft. Sailing across the ocean to prove some theory about how people might have migrated from the main continent to the small islands. And, I couldn't comit to much more than a Saturday night date, let alone 101 days with six guys on a raft.

Of course if everyone felt as I did about safety and security and staying in familiar territory, we'd all still be living in the Garden of Eden....well, that doesn't necessarily sound like a bad thing. My point being that no one would have set out to find new lands, meet foreign cultures, or learn new ways of living.

We need risk takers, explorers, questioners, and planners, and what-if askers. It is a good thing, this diversity. If we were all jumping into the ocean on tiny rafts -- we'd look like a world of Lemings. And we all know what happened to them.

Maybe it was this little wooden raft that gave men the feeling of possibility. The possibility that led us to the moon and this past week to launch yet another exploration of Mars expedition. Although 'manned' by robotic type machines, this exploration isn't so much different than Heyerdahl's adventure. What else could we learn from past adventurers' and their explorations? It doesn't hurt to look backwards now and then. It thaws the brain and fills it with possibilities. What a great way to spend a hot August day. Almost as good as being there....

1 comment:

Gary said...

I remember that -- the guy used marsh reeds, as I recall. Is it one of Michener's books that details how the South Pacific islands were peopled? I suspect it was from both directions -- that is, from South and Central American and from Southeast Asia. Funny, though, that people from, say, Guam or Saipan look similar to people from Polynesia.