Letters to the Editor: Save the planet. Read Thor Heyerdahl.
By Eric C. Williams
If you haven’t read the story of Thor Heyerdahl, you should. It made me think. It made me wonder. It inspired me.
As a kid, I spent a summer in my grandparents’ basement playing with Thor and his cousins, the Heyerdalh, a pre-Inuits people who migrated from the area of Lapland where I grew up, to the North Pole. Their story is told in a book, The Heyerdahl Story – and if it wasn’t a book, there would have been a film, a TV series, an animated TV series, an HBO movie, a book, an exhibition, a documentary, a play, a short story, a lecture, an album, a poem, a song.
I also spent my summer with Heyerdahl in Paris. I’m no poet, but I remember the lines I read there that moved and transformed my thinking as a boy: “We are of thee, but of thee only as Thou art of us.”
“Be careful not to think that you can’t or won’t change the world,” Heyerdahl wrote in his memoir, Travels. “You may be small in number, but you are a mighty thing.”
Heyerdahl, a Dane, was born in 1875 to a well-off family in the town of Kols, in southern Norway. As a child, he was a sickly boy who suffered from rheumatic fever. After his recovery, he worked hard, got a degree in engineering and married the daughter of a professor, who had written a book about his son, Thor Heyerdahl. When his bride died of tuberculosis five years later, Thor stayed with his mother, who died soon thereafter.
He left the country and travelled overland to South America, and then to Australia in 1896, where he met his second wife, Hilda, the daughter of settlers. The Heyerdahl family lived in a cabin in the outback and spent their winters in Sydney before leaving for their summer home in