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Are You Correct?

How Thor Heyerdahl proved himself right

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore how we can stick to what we believe to be right.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Are You Correct?) and the means to display them.


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Ask the children whether any of them recognize this person. (It is highly unlikely that they will!)

    Ask what sort of job they think this person might have had.

    Click the slide to reveal the person’s name.

    Explain that this person is Thor Heyerdahl, an explorer who was born more than 100 years ago.

  2. Ask the children, ‘Have you ever known that you were right about something, but no one really believed you?’

    Listen to a range of responses.

  3. Explain that Thor Heyerdahl was a man who was convinced that he was right about something. The problem was that everyone else thought that he was wrong.

  4. Explain that there may be times when we think that we’re right because we know the answer to a question in class, but no one else believes that we’re right. Likewise, we might be certain that we’re right about whether a friend has done something that they are being blamed for.

  5. Thor Heyerdahl was an adventurer. He’d trained as a marine biologist and geographer in his home country of Norway and decided to put his knowledge into practice in Polynesia, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, between Australia and South America. Heyerdahl believed that these islands had been populated by people who had sailed across the sea from South America. The scientific community, however, insisted that the population had arrived from the opposite direction. Heyerdahl believed that the prevailing winds and currents supported his theory, so he decided to prove it.

  6. Show Slide 2.

    On 25 April 1947, Heyerdahl and five friends set sail from the coast of Peru to the Tuamotu Islands. They sailed on a raft made from planks of balsa wood – the same material that Heyerdahl believed had been used thousands of years before when the first people landed there.

  7. Show Slide 3.

    Heyerdahl and his crew faced storms, shark attacks and even the inquisitiveness of whales before crashing onto the shore at Raroia in the Tuamotus. The voyage had taken 101 days and they had travelled 4,300 nautical miles (about 8,000 kilometres). Heyerdahl had proved himself right.

  8. Show Slide 4.

    Not content with one epic voyage, Heyerdahl set out again in 1969. This time, he intended to cross the Atlantic Ocean, sailing from Morocco in North Africa in a boat made of papyrus reeds. He called the boat Ra, after the Egyptian sun god, and aimed to prove that Egyptian sailors had made this crossing, even though most of the scientific community disagreed with his theory.

    Sadly, the expedition failed because the boat became waterlogged, but Heyerdahl was not to be beaten.

  9. Show Slide 5.

    The following year, Heyerdahl set off again with six friends in a similar boat, Ra II.

    Show Slide 6.

    This time, they successfully made the crossing from Morocco to Barbados.

  10. It’s one thing to be convinced we’re right. It’s another thing entirely to be prepared to put time and effort into proving it.

Time for reflection

Jesus taught us about the importance of persistence. He praised those who were willing to keep searching when something or someone was lost. He praised the person who kept on praying even when God didn’t appear to be answering. He praised those who put in the extra effort to create good foundations for their lives. Jesus emphasized the fact that persisting with something shows that it really matters to us.

Ask the children, ‘How persistent are we? How easily do we give up?’

Pause to allow time for thought.

Sometimes, it seems easier to give up and stop trying. However, the greatest joy and satisfaction often comes when we have had to work hard for something.

Encourage the children to think about something that they are finding difficult at the moment.

Encourage them to keep trying and not to give up!

Finally, ask the children, ‘What do we do when we are proved right?’

Encourage the children to consider that a quiet smile at our success is probably better than a loud, ‘I told you so!’

Dear God,
Please help us to persevere and not give up easily.
Please help us to think about how our actions affect other people.
Please help us to be willing to learn,
But also willing to stand up for what we believe to be right.

Publication date: June 2022   (Vol.24 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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