Norwegians bid farewell to their hero, Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame
... water or medical treatment after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in late March....
Apr 26 9:55 AM ET
Posted on: 04/26/2002
Fri Apr 26, 9:54 AM ET
By DOUG MELLGREN, Associated Press Writer
OSLO, Norway -
Hundreds of Norwegians, including the king, bid farewell Friday to Thor Heyerdahl, whose harrowing 1947 voyage from Peru to Polynesia aboard the balsa-log raft Kon-Tiki made him a national hero and a global celebrity.
The scientist and adventurer died on April 18 at age 87 at his family retreat in Italy. Around 1,000 people filled the Oslo Cathedral for his funeral Friday, with scores more gathered outside.
Heyerdahl had refused food, water or medical treatment after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in late March.
"An exciting life is over," Lutheran Bishop Gunnar Staalsett said. "He was a hero to three generations."
"The captain has said farewell with a smile. Death came as a friend," said Staalsett.
Heyerdahl's mahogany-colored coffin on a pedestal draped in green cloth was surrounded by wreaths from his family, the Norwegian government and parliament, the Explorers' Club, the nation of Peru and dozens of others.
Heyerdahl's best-selling book and a 1951 Oscar winning documentary about the Kon-Tiki voyage captured the world's imagination.
Experts scoffed when the explorer set off to cross the Pacific aboard a balsa raft in 1947, saying it would get water logged and sink within days. After 101 days and 4,900 miles, the voyage nearly ended in disaster, when the raft crashed onto a coral reef. But he proved it could be done.
His later expeditions included voyages aboard the reed rafts Ra, Ra II and Tigris. His wide-ranging archaeological studies, including on Easter Island and Tenerife, often were controversial and challenged accepted views about human migration.
Though he lived and worked abroad for decades, he remained immensely popular in his homeland, being named Norwegian of the Century in a newspaper's millennium reader poll.
Since his death, hundreds have trekked to the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo to pay their respects. Flags flew at half staff after the government announced what amounted to a state funeral.
Those filling the 305-year old stone church, included Heyerdahl's family, Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja, the prime minister and hundreds of ordinary Norwegians.
Knut Haugland, the last surviving member of the Kon-Tiki's five-man crew, also spoke at the hour-long service, thanking Heyerdahl for picking him for the voyage. "The memories filled us with joy for the rest of our lives," the 84-year-old Haugland said.
Heyerdahl, born in the southern Norwegian town of Larvik, became ill this year during a family Easter gathering at Colla Michari, a Roman-era Italian village that he bought and restored in the 1950s. He returned to the village to die.
His body was brought to Oslo, where it will be cremated, but the ashes will be buried in Colla Michari.
Heyerdahl is survived by his third wife, Jacqueline, four children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren with a seventh on the way.
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