BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 September 2014
Accessibility help

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Reconstructing Famous Ships

By Barrie Andrian
Reed boats

Image of Phil Buck with 'La Viracocha' - his reed ship
Paul Buck on board 'La Viracocha', his reed ship ©
Many other dramatic experiments involving voyages have taken place, with notable examples including Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki voyage, and Tim Severin’s Brendan voyage. Thor Heyerdahl built a replica of a Peruvian raft to sail into the Pacific to the Polynesian islands in 1947.

His voyage from Peru lasted 101 days, before he reached the Tuamotu Islands. He successfully disproved the generally held views that such rafts were not seaworthy and he postulated controversially that the Polynesian islands therefore could have been colonised from South America.

'... the craft was certainly seaworthy enough for St Brendan to have made such a voyage.'

More than 50 years later, American explorer Phil Buck also set out to prove the theory, this time in a reed boat named Viracocha, after the same Sun God as Kon Tiki. Buck’s voyage began in 1999 when he sailed from Chile to Easter Island. This successful voyage formed the first part of an eight-year project to circumnavigate the globe using a total of five reed boats in all.

Tim Severin recreated a 'curragh', or skin covered boat, for the Brendan voyage, and in 1976 and 1977 he followed in the wake of St Brendan, who is believed to have sailed from Ireland across the North Atlantic in this type of small boat in the sixth century AD.

Severin’s voyage was successful, demonstrating that the craft was certainly seaworthy enough for St Brendan to have made such a voyage. The result can only have intensified discussions about the earliest discovery of America.

Published: 2005-01-26

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy