Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Why Easter Islanders Did Not Sail to South America – Part I

There are numerous so-called “experts” in the field of Anthropology and Archaeology that claim, one way or another, that Polynesians landed on Easter Island from the west and then sailed on eastward to South America, bringing back with them the sweet potato and other evidences of the continent to Easter Island. The problem with that scenario is simply the movement of water between the island and the mainland…a movement of water that determines ocean travel! 
    First of all, we have an actual experiment from history to show that movement from Peru to Easter Island was not only possible, but most likely. And that was the 1947 voyage of Kon-Tiki, undertaken by Thor Heyerdahl. It was while living for a year on Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas, 1937-1938, that he began to study how Pacific inhabitants had reached the islands.
    In one instance, Heyerdahl and his honeymooning wife met a former cannibal in the valley of Uia on Fatu Havi who told them that their ancestors had come “from Te Fiti,” meaning “from the east.” The only land to the east was the continent of South America. Heyerdahl went on to explore this possibility a number of years later, as is detailed in his books Kon-Tiki, and Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island.
Thor Heyerdahs famed drift voyage (Blue Arrow) dependent strictly upon winds and sea current flowed from Peru, into the (Dotted Brown Line) South Pacific Gyre and then curved downward inside the Gyre toward Polynesia
Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany, and geography, at the age of thirty-three, built and sailed the balsa raft, Kon-Tiki (an ancient name for the Peruvian God Viracocha) across the Pacific Ocean from Calleo, outside Lima, Peru, in South America, to the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia, landing on Raroia atoll. He showed that by sailing along the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current, which moves upward along the coast of South America northward from the Antarctic Current and finally into the South Pacific Gyre, that by drifting with the current he would move into the Gyre current and drop out and down into Polynesia.
The South Pacific, like all oceans, is made up of several different ocean currents, which act in concert with one another. In the South Pacific Ocean, the main current is the counter-clockwise South Pacific Gyre, made up of the northern South Equatorial Current, the eastern Humboldt (Peruvian) Current, the southern South Pacific Current, and the western East Australian Current. This circular Gyre has numerous mirroring currents that fall out or circle downward within the main Gyre as shown in the dotted arrows abovesailing against these currents would be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible

When Thor Heyerdahl set out in his first voyage on the raft Kon-Tiki, he believed in these currents acting as he understood them to do, but had no proof such would be the case, and when leaving Calleo on the coast of Peru, he sailed in the current almost northward, which gave him much consternation since his destination lay to the southwest. However, after passing near the Galapagos Islands, he eventually found the current bending westward, then dropping (or falling out) toward the southwest and finally ending up in the French Polynesian island group and landing on the Raroia Atoll.
The balsa raft Kon-Tiki, built and sailed by Thor Heyerdahl along with five fellow adventurers from Peru to French Polynesia

The dead distance (non-stop) between the point of departure (Calleo, Peru) and the point of arrival (Raroia Atoll) is approximately 4,000 miles, and yet the raft only crossed 1,000 miles of surface water because of the current flow. Heyerdahl, who believed and promoted the idea that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times, put together the Kon-Tiki expedition to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent early Peruvians from having made such a voyage and colonization. Although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, Heyerdahl showed they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey.
    The important point to make in opposition to the scientific claim that Easter Islanders sailed to Peru is that if another primitive craft had been able to travel with the same speed in an equally straight line, but in the opposite direction of Kon-Tikis route, it would have traversed about 7000 miles of surface water to reach Peru, i.e., covering seven times the distance over water.
A return trip would cover seven times the distance across surface water

First of all, the reason is according to the Bradshaw Foundation in connection with the Royal Geographic Society and the National Geographic Society, that the ocean surface itself had displaced about 3000 miles, or about 50 degrees of the Earth's circumference, during the time needed for the Kon Tiki crossing. Put another way it means that the Islands are located only about 1000 miles from Peru, whereas Peru is located 7000 miles from the Islands. Thus, the current travels at about 40 miles per 24 hours, and if the craft is sailing at 60 miles per 24 hours, it means that it would have traveled 100 miles in one day, with the current, and the duration of the voyage would be 40 days.
    On the other hand, and this is most important to understand, traveling the opposite way at the same speed against the current it will only travel 20 miles per 24 hours and thus need 200 days to make the voyage.
If the craft was only travelling 40 miles per 24 hours it would sail from Peru to the islands in 50 days, but at that speed going in the opposite direction (against a current traveling 40 miles in 24 hours in the opposite direction) it would never leave the islands.
Thus, the idea that Polynesians sailed from Easter Island to the mainland of South America is without merit, and statistically an impossibility under the circumstances that would have prevailed before the Age of Sail.
Heyerdahl later learned to steer within those fall outcurrents (Dotted Green Line) to reach Easter Island, which the Incas and later the Spanish (Green Line) learned to sail directly to Salas-y-Gómez and Easter Island, which later the Incas, and even later the Spanish learned to do

Consequently, it can be seen, that by using the available currents that sweep up past South America (Humboldt Current) and move out into the South Pacific Gyre, then staying within the inside of the Gyre loop as it moves westward across the Pacific, the vessel could be steered into the current that drops out of the Gyre and curves down into Polynesia, including not only French Polynesia, but also Easter Island, as well as the rest of Polynesia moving westward across the Pacific.
    However, return trips would not be possible moving back the way the vessel had come, since it would be bucking the strong Gyre currents that move counter-clockwise across the South Pacific. Though Heyerdahl’s voyages in Kon-Tiki, and later in the Ra and Tigris expeditions, were extremely successful and caught the imagination of the entire public, showing how early man could have sailed the oceans, for the most part, his theories have not been accepted by anthropologists.
    In fact, the anthropology and archaeology world never forgave Heyerdahl for showing them that their earlier and “cast in concrete” theories—like crossing the so-called land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, were no longer valid.
(See the next post, “Why Easter Islanders Did Not Sail to South America – Part II – The Ingenious Ancient Peruvian Balsa Rafts,” to see what kind of balsa rafts the early Peruvians used in their sailing to Easter Island besides the ships that Hagoth built)


  1. If the Inca and earlier people from South America made it to what we call Easter Island, how did they get back? Looking at your map of the gyre, it appears that the a raft could leave Easter Island and go south on a mirroring current until they met up with the South Pacific leg of the gyre, and then follow it around back to the coast of Peru.

  2. Exactly. They also could have dropped clear down to the Southern ocean as well. It is the same way the early Spanish found to get back from the Philippines to Central America after years of failure, only they went north toward Japan--the point being that the currents have always been there and sometimes trial and error led to their discovery.

  3. It might also be noted, that if they were not using sails, they could have headed back the way they came, rowing into the current, which would have driven them south as they progressed eastward, and would have ended up toward the south along the coast, picking up the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current, which would have then taken them northward back toward Peru. The first time this would have been accidental, but from then on they would have understood how to do this with intent.