Kiwi adventurer requires Pacific Ocean rescue

  • 18/03/2016
Two wooden rafts of the Kon-Tiki2 expedition (Reuters)
Two wooden rafts of the Kon-Tiki2 expedition (Reuters)

Fourteen people, including a New Zealander, on board two balsa rafts attempting to emulate the famous Kon-Tiki voyage of 1947 have been rescued.

The Kon-Tiki2 expedition began in Peru in November and the rafts reached Easter Island. They set off for Chile on the return voyage in January.

The expedition put out a distress signal on Wednesday asking for help and was rescued.

"We realise that reaching South America will take too long and we prefer to evacuate to ensure safety for all," leader Torgeir Higraff said in a statement on the expedition's website.

Kiwi Lisa Te Heuheu was on the expedition. She grew up in Turangi and lives in Kuratau.

She wrote in a blog six days ago that the previous two days had "seen the wildest weather of our journey to date".

"The winds were kicking up, at times close to 30-40 knots, and hauntingly whistling through the raft like a solemn voice of despair."

She said the waves "were throwing us around like a spin cycle on a washing machine and the five to six metre holes we were falling into felt as though you were being swallowed whole by the ocean itself".

"I have never in all my life felt the power of the ocean as I have the last couple of days, it is unbelievable.

The expedition leader blamed the El Nino weather phenomenon for creating "atypical" weather patterns, adding that in "a normal year, we would have reached South America by now. Instead, we are still 900 nautical miles from land and the weather forecasts are not promising".

Some of the crew were carrying out research on climate change, pollution from microplastics and the impact of El Nino weather.

The original Kon-Tiki expedition, led by the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl, saw a mainly Norwegian team travel across the Pacific on a raft.

The crew said they were now safely on board the Hokuetsu Ushaka freight ship.

They had spent 114 days in the south-east Pacific.

NZN