Badassitude isn’t always about killing other human beings and using your enemies’ severed heads to play two-on-two pickup hoops with hot topless bikini babes. Sometimes it’s about going on crazy adventures and using your intellect and your bravery to go the extra mile and prove to everyone in the world just how massive your nuts are. Norwegian archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl falls in to the second category – the man wasn’t the sort of guy who could crush human skulls into giant piles of bone dust with his bare hands, but in his lifetime he explored uncharted territories, returned unscathed from several expeditions deemed “suicidal” by the scientific community, and had some of the most amazing adventures this side of Indiana Jones. Plus, he was named after the fucking Norse God of Thunder, and it’s a little-known fact that it is against the law in Norway for you to be named Thor and not be totally fucking awesome. Seriously, if your name is Thor and you totally suck ass, then you are bound by law to change your name to something less ball-rockingly awesome. Like Alfred.
As a young man, Thor was really into zoology and animals and shit. He used to wander around Norway and capture armfuls of indigenous fucking poisonous vipers Steve Irwin-style, putting together a large private collection of venomous snakes which he could potentially have used to wipe out the entire populations of small rural villages. He didn’t though, turning away from a live of evil genius-caliber crime to go to Oslo University and study Zoology, Geography, and Polynesian Culture. He was so fascinated with the culture and history of the Polynesian people that when he graduated college and married his first mega-hottie wife in 1937, they immediately set sail together for the remote South Pacific island of Fatu Hiva.
Now, when most people honeymoon in French Polynesia, they spend their afternoons leisurely reclining under a palm tree on the beach outside their post five-star resorts, sipping Mai Tais and checking out hula-dancing fire-twirling babes in grass skirts and coconut bikinis. Not the Heyerdahls. They settled in a vast, green valley located near an ancient tribe of goddamned Polynesian cannibals, built a thatched-roof hut out of shit they foraged from the underbrush, and dedicated their free time to studying the local fauna and excavating the nearby ruins of a long-dead civilization. They ate from fruit trees, drank out of rivers, and got it on like ALL THE FUCKING TIME because let’s be honest here it was their honeymoon. During his adventures learning from the indigenous peoples and wandering around never-before explored ancient ruins in Fatu Hiva, Thor began developing a theory that was completely radical at the time – he found evidence that led him to believe that the Polynesian Islands had been settled in an East-to-West fashion by ancient South American peoples, not West-to-East by Asian peoples as all Ethnographers of the time believed. This was a balls-out, over-the-top theory that would eventually drive Heyerdahl to do some insane, awesome shit.
After a year and a half living off the land, discovering new shit, and returning to nature on Fatu Hiva, Thor returned to Norway because there was a little thing called fucking World War II going on. He joined the Free Norway military, and served in a Parachute Infantry regiment against the Nazis. No big deal, just helping to liberate the free world from the oppression of Fascist dictators. All in a day’s work for a badass archaeologist.
After the war, Thor finally got around to publishing his theory that Polynesia was settled by South American peoples who sailed West from Peru. While this might not seem like that big a deal, it was fucking huge shit to the anthropological community, who widely attempted to discredit Heyerdahl’s theories, saying that such a migration was impossible and he was a total dumbshit asshole for even suggesting it. Well Thor wasn’t the sort of badass who was going to sit around and let a bunch of numbnuts professors tell him that he was full of crap – he organized an expedition to Peru and decided to give those motherfuckers a proverbial scientific kick in the nards.
101 days on this fucking thing.
In shark-infested waters.
So Thor Heyerdahl went to Peru and build a goddamned raft out of flimsy-ass balsa wood in 1947. Most dipshit “experts” thought that the raft, named “Kon-Tiki” after an ancient Incan mariner god, would probably spontaneously combust, collapse, sink into the Pacific about two hundred yards from the shore, and the entire crew would be swallowed up by a great white whale. Heyerdahl used any research on ancient seafaring he could find to build a completely accurate vessel out of materials and technology available to the ancient Incan peoples, and pushed off for Polynesia as soon as possible. For months, Thor and his crew sailed on this barely-seaworthy vessel through shark-infested waters on a seemingly impossible mission, but after 101 days and 4,300 miles of water he successfully set foot on Polynesian soil. Then he published a scientific paper called, “Eat Shit, Motherfuckers: The True Story of How Thor Heyerdahl Made You Assholes Look Like a Bunch of Fucking Morons”, which stated that his adventure proved that it was in fact scientifically possible for the Incans to have settled in Polynesia. Now that’s how a badass handles criticism when he knows he’s right – he goes on a balls-out suicide mission just to shove it in his detractors’ stupid faces.
After Kon-Tiki, Heyerdahl went on expeditions to study the moai on Easter Island, where he explored ruins, sought out ancient archaeological discoveries, battled the Ghosts of the Twelve Ancients with a legendary magical sword crafted from the bones of fallen angels, and punched a llama in the face for no reason at all. His work in the field of population migration and ethnography were groundbreaking, but his theories were still considered by many scientists to be more radical than jumping over the flaming wreckage of an oil tanker on a bitchin’ surfboard with skulls and ninjas airbrushed on it. However, after reading about all of his awesome adventures across the globe, many people began to appreciate his work and open their minds to the research he was performing.
Thor’s adventures in building crazy boats and going on bizarre-o suicide Mr. Toad Wild Rides wasn’t over after Kon-Tiki however. No, his quest for awesome balls-out shit was only just beginning. At one point he came up with a theory that the ancient African peoples could have sailed to the New World before Christopher Columbus, another theory which was widely criticized by jackasses who didn’t know the difference between a discovery of great archaeological significance and a twenty year-old toaster. So Heyerdahl built a huge boat out of these weak-ass papyrus reeds, and decided to sail it across the Atlantic Ocean. Most nautical experts at the time thought the reeds would get water-logged and the ship would collapse after about two weeks in open water, but of course Thor didn’t even give a crap. He put together a multi-national crew and shoved off … FOR ADVENTURE! His rinky-dink ancient ship, “Ra”, left Morocco and covered 2,700 miles in 56 days, but was ultimately destroyed by a storm only one week away from its final destination. Of course, Thor never fucking half-assed anything in his entire life, so he built a SECOND ship only ten months later, and this time he covered 3,200 miles in 57 days, finally landing in Barbados and proving the plausibility that there were pre-Columbus voyages to the New World.
In 1978 he once again built a boat out of reeds and set sail from Iraq to prove that people could have migrated by sea from Iraq to Pakistan. However, Thor and his crew were getting pissed off because every port they stopped at on the African coast was a fucking warzone with jerks shooting each other in the groins for no reason at all. So five months into their journey, Thor and his crew set fire to their ship out of protest for how fucked-up the world is. And because setting huge bonfires is awesome. Heyerdahl continued his research into his 80s, studying Norse Myth, green politics, archaeology and eco-conservation right up until his death at age 87. His life is probably best summed up by the e-mailer who suggested this particular article, when he wrote:
“Thor Heyerdahl guy was the MacGyver of impossible voyages. He could probably have crafted an oceanliner out of tree bark and his own manly sweat. He even burned perfectly good boats of his own making to protest the shit that didn't fly with him. He was a relentless adventurer and an example to everyone, everywhere. In an age of intolerance, he made friends across all boundaries, exhorted people to travel and learn new tongues, taught the value of our natural environment, and never stopped in his pursuit of knowledge. He was a free spirit who refused to be bound by convention and he made the world a better place.”