: : Not just the name of a coconut/booze concoction I sometimes imbibe... but also the name of a book by Thor Heyerdahl in which he reveals some of the fascinating secrets of the South Sea island cultures. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to have received a copy of Aku-Aku as a gift... : :

: : For those who don’t already know, Thor Heyerdahl is the famous Norwegian explorer who taught us more than we ever wanted to know about the South Seas through his books American Indians in the South Pacific and the famous Kon Tiki Expedition (which, in turn, gave us a great name for a restaurant). : :

: : Aku-Aku is Heyerdahl’s third book about the South Pacific. In this one he discovers “the centuries-old secret of the statues of Easter Island” and much more about the little speck in the sea that the natives refer to as The Navel of the World. By this time in his career (the mid to late 1950’s), Heyerdahl was so well-known for his exploits that the natives of Easter Island (under Peruvian government rule) called him Señor Kon-Tiki. : :

: : So what did Thor dig up on Easter Island? Well, aside from learning that those big heads with which we are all so familiar actually have more to them than just a head, Thor describes a mysterious series of secret caves that are found throughout the landscape, and theorizes about the origins of the various cultures which have inhabited the island down through the years. The accounts of how the Easter Island Moais were carved out of a quarry—and carried down the side of a hill to their temporary resting places before being placed on huge stone bases near the sea—are incredible. The nerve-wracking tales of underground cave exploration are claustrophobia-inducing. But despite all this, Thor’s stories made me think of what it would have been like if Captain Kirk and his crew had gone around breaking the Federation’s Prime Directive. : :

: : Thor did nothing to stop some red-haired, light-skinned natives from thinking that they were descended from Norwegians... he had others believing that his aku-aku, or protective spirit, was stronger than theirs, enabling him to make off with several artifacts that had been kept hidden from outsiders for generations. In other words, by messing with the natives’ heads, Thor changed their lives and got away with whatever he wanted. This is not to say that the natives were all that honest with Thor either. But why should they have been honest with this outsider who just showed up on their shores one day? They were only trying to protect what had been theirs for ages. : :

: : The bottom line though, is that Thor is a great storyteller, and the book will keep you enthralled. In fact, at the conclusion of Aku-Aku, Heyerdahl mentions some of the material covered in his other books and this has given me the urge to dig up The Kon Tiki Expedition and discover the origins of our fascination with all things Tiki... and the true meaning of what we only know as the name of a restaurant. : :

John Trivisonno © 1999

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