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Being Right!

Thor Heyerdahl and his adventures on Kon-Tiki, Ra and Ra II

by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2014)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore our sense of self-belief and persistence.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Being Right!) and the means to display them.
  • You may wish to choose one or more readers to read the story of Thor Heyerdahl’s expeditions.


  1. Show Slide 1.

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

    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. He was a man who was convinced that he was right about something. The problem was that everyone else thought that he was wrong.

  2. Ask the students, ‘Have you ever found yourself in that situation?’

    Maybe we’ve known the answer to a quiz question, but no one else on our team believes that we’re correct. It may be a question of justice, where we are sure that someone is innocent when they’ve been accused of a misdemeanour. It may be an issue of relationships, where we have serious doubts about the trustworthiness of someone within our group of friends.

    In all of these cases, we can find ourselves in a small minority, but still have no doubt about how right we are.

  3. 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. 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, coming from South-East Asia. Heyerdahl believed that the prevailing winds and currents supported his theory, so he decided to prove it.

  4. 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 by the first immigrants.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 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.
  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    In those examples that we mentioned earlier, if we were right about the answer in the quiz, this would become obvious when the answers were read out at the end.

    If we wanted to prove someone’s innocence, that would take more persistence. We would need to talk to people, organize our arguments, present these to the people overseeing the issue and convince them of our case.

    Relationships are a more complicated matter. We would need to show patience and tact, and act responsibly to ensure that no one was hurt in the process.

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 persisted in 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.

The temptation for us is to look for a quick fix and go with the line of least resistance; then, if this doesn’t work immediately, we might quietly give up on it.

Thor Heyerdahl chose a difficult path. He was accused of being arrogant, a rebel, flying in the face of what others thought was right. However, he believed in not taking things for granted and finding out the truth.

He read and researched widely, building a case for his theories. He was convinced that he had understood things correctly and was prepared 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 and ignorance. It’s a good idea to assess things carefully before we take our stance, but then comes the time for courage, when we put in time and effort to prove that we’re right.

And what should 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 that we’ve earned, is worth the courage that it takes to persist.

Dear Lord,
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!

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