In 1955 Thor Heyerdahl set out on a new expedition, this time to Easter Island. With him were five archeologists: A. Skjølsvold (Norway), E.N. Ferdon (USA), W. Molloy (USA), C.S. Smith (USA) and G. Figueroa (Chile).
On Easter Island, monolithic stone statues, called moai in the native language, stand in the open landscape around the entire coastline.
It was long believed that the statues in the island’s Rano Raraku quarry consisted solely of heads. Excavations carried out by Heyerdahl and his research team revealed that they were simply “the top of the iceberg”. Buried below the heads they discovered the colossi’s enormous torsos.
The team also gained access to a number of caves on the island where collections of smaller ancient sculptures had been stored as sacred relics, according to the native residents. Until then the sculptures were unknown outside of Easter Island. Heyerdahl purchased several hundred of these objects, many of which can be seen at the Kon-Tiki Museum.
Heyerdahl’s book about the Easter Island expedition, Aku-Aku, was published in the USA in 1958, where it also became a best seller like the 1950 book on the Kon-Tiki voyage.
In 1986 Thor Heyerdahl returned to Easter Island. This second expedition is known mostly for Heyerdahl’s attempts to transport the moai. According to legend on the island, the monumental stone statues could walk.
Heyerdahl, the Czech engineer Pavel Pavel, and a group of local residents (16 persons in total) attempted to move one of the standing moai by towing it with ropes lashed around its head and lower part of the torso. The group managed, without too much difficulty, to get the 15-ton statue to “walk”. Heyerdahl deduced that the mystery of how these statues had previously been transported was thus solved.