Pictures: 9,000-mile raft journey was the longest ever
Forty years ago in 1973, a group of men sailed across the Pacific Ocean on basic rafts - the 9,300-mile journey from South America to Australia was the longest of its kind ever recorded.
Forty years ago in 1973, a group of men sailed across the Pacific Ocean on basic rafts - the 9,300-mile journey from South America to Australia was the longest of its kind ever recorded. They wanted to prove that ancient civilisations could have travelled between the two continents. These are some of the photos from the expedition.
The journey took six months and ended at the small town of Ballina in New South Wales. Gabriel Salas is now retired and splits his time between Spain and Australia. Mike Fitzgibbons is a delivery driver in New Jersey in America. They spoke to Claire Bowes for the BBC World Service programme, Witness. Photos courtesy of Mike Fitzgibbons.
They cut the logs at full moon when the sap content in the trees is at its highest, for maximum buoyancy.
"We looked like primitive creatures, our clothes were starting to get tattered, we had the beards, we had the long hair," says crew member Mike Fitzgibbons (above).
Most days followed the same routine - they drank rainwater and daily chores included fishing and cooking.
When he needed space, Mike "would do some sort of work" - here he is washing some clothes.
The 12 crew members built three rafts in Ecuador where the voyage began - they used balsa wood for the bases and bamboo for the cabins.
On still nights the surface of the sea was like a mirror that "reflected the stars so well that you found yourself like floating in space with stars below you, stars on the horizon, stars above you," says Salas.
And there were pets: three cats and two monkeys were taken along to distract the crew from their daily chores. The cats "were really funny and made you laugh all the time," says Salas. "One monkey was bad and would literally just throw things overboard," says Fitzgibbons.
The expedition was the idea of Spanish explorer Vital Alsar (pictured here).
"The closer we came to Australia the sadder we became... having to travel to work every day, having to withstand disagreeable bosses, be in a rush all the time and nobody wanted to actually reach Australia," says Salas.
In storms, "You didn't see the other rafts as they would go down into the trough of the wave - big rollers, huge rollers. It was frightening - the noise of the wind pushing the sails," says crew member Gabriel Salas.