I Know I'm Right
Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki, Ra and Ra II
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore students’ sense of self-belief and persistence (SEAL theme: Motivation).
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and could choose one or more readers to read the story of Thor Heyerdahl’s expeditions.
- Have available images of Thor Heyerdahl, the Kon-Tiki raft and the Ra II boat and the means to display them during the assembly (check copyright).
- Also have available the song ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ by Diana Ross and the means to play it at the end of the assembly (check copyright).
- Display image of Thor Heyerdahl.
Thor Heyerdahl, who was born 100 years ago this month, was a man who was convinced he was right.
The problem was that everyone else thought he was wrong.
Have you ever found yourself in that situation?
- It may simply be that you know the answer to a quiz question and no one else on your team believes it’s right. Alternatively, it may be a question of justice – that you are sure someone is innocent when they’ve been accused of a misdemeanour. It may be an issue of relationships – that you have serious doubts about the sincerity or trustworthiness of someone within your group of friends. It may be a practical problem – for instance, the solution to a problem with a computer. In all these cases, you find yourself in a very small minority, but still have no doubt about how right you are.
- 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 on the Pacific islands known as Polynesia. He believed that these islands had been populated by people who had sailed across the sea to there from South America. The scientific community in general, however, insisted that the population had arrived from completely the opposite direction, from South East Asia. Heyerdahl believed the prevailing winds and currents supported his theory, so he decided to prove it.
Display image of the Kon-Tiki raft.
On 28 April 1947, he set sail from the coast of Peru on a raft made from planks of balsa wood – the same material he believed had been used thousands of years before by the first immigrants. He and his crew faced storms, shark attacks and even the inquisitiveness of whales before crashing onto the shore near Tahiti 101 days later after a journey of over 4,000 miles.
He had proved himself to be right.
- Not content with one epic voyage, in 1969 he set out from the coast of North Africa in a boat made of papyrus reedsto sail across the Atlantic. He aimed to prove that Egyptian sailors had made this crossing. Once again, this theory flew in the face of majority scientific opinion. Sadly, this expedition failed, as the boat became waterlogged, but Heyerdahl was not to be beaten.
Display image of Ra II.
The following year, however, he successfully made the 4,000-mile crossing from Morocco to Barbados.
- It’s one thing to be convinced you’re right. It’s another thing entirely to be prepared to put time, effort and your reputation into proving it.
If you were right about the answer in the quiz, then eventually this would become obvious. If you wanted to prove someone’s innocence, then that would take much more persistence. It would be necessary to talk to people, organize your arguments, present these to those people who have some authority and convince them of your case.
Relationships are a more difficult matter. You would need to show patience and tact and act responsibly to ensure that no one was hurt in the process. A practical, problemsolving issue, such as that with a computer, involves a different, hands-on approach.
- Jesus taught us about the importance of persistence. He praised those who were willing to persist in searching when something or someone was lost. He praised the person who persisted in praying 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 persistence shows the issue really matters to us. The temptation for us is to, instead, look for the quick fix, the easy solution, to go with the crowd, the line of least resistance and, if this doesn’t work immediately, quietly give up on it.
Time for reflection
Thor Heyerdahl chose the difficult path. He was accused of being arrogant, a rebel, flying in the face of what others thought was right, but he believed in not taking things for granted and finding out the truth.
He read and researched widely, building a case for his ideas. He was convinced in himself that he had understood things correctly and was ready to have the courage of his convictions, even to the extent of putting his life at risk.
When we choose to stand alone, we lay ourselves open to these same accusations – of arrogance, rebelliousness, ignorance. It’s probably a good idea to have thought things through carefully before taking our stance, but then comes the time for courage, for putting the time and effort into proving that we’re right.
Finally, what do we do when we are proved right? A quiet smile at our success is probably better than a loud, ‘I told you so!’ The feeling of satisfaction inside, the new reputation we’ve earned is worth the courage it took to persist.
Thank you for a cause to fight for.
May we be sure about what we believe, courageous in our pursuit of truth and gracious when we’re proved right . . . or wrong!
‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ by Diana Ross