Five Spanish adventurers boarded an anciently styled reed boat and pushed off for New Zealand in a voyage aimed at showing how pre-Columbian Peruvians could have crossed the Pacific.
Famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, whose theories and expeditions sparked the adventure, bid farewell to the sailors Wednesday as they departed Lima's port Callao."The Uru is built correctly," the 73-year-old an-thropologist said during an inspection of the 70-foot ship made from reeds. He said it is crafted along the lines of pre-Columbian boat builders.
The Spaniards, headed by 29-year-old Kitin Munoz, plan to follow a course charted by Heyerdahl, who sailed the primitive balsa raft Kon Tiki from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.
Heyerdahl and five others made the voyage, which he wrote about in the book "Kon Tiki," to support his thesis that the first settlers of Polynesia were of South American descent. In 1970, he sailed a papyrus boat from Morocco to Barbados in an attempt to prove that the ancient inhabitants of the Mediterranean region could have sailed to America.
Paulino Esteban, a Lake Titicaca Indian who built the Uru and other reed boats used by Heyerdahl, also met with the Spanish crew and Heyerdahl aboard the 12-ton craft.
Esteban said the Uru is a huge version of the reed boats that Indians on Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake at 12,700 feet, have used for centuries and still use today. The lake is 600 miles southeast of Lima.
The Uru, named after an ancient Titicaca tribe, has no motor and depends on its two sails for propulsion. A compass and a radio for emergencies are the only modern tools aboard the rough-hewn craft.
Although reed boats rot after about a year in fresh water, Munoz said the Uru would remain buoyant during the five-month voyage to New Zealand, 7,200 miles southwest of Lima.