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Kon-Tiki2 expedition ends in rescue, crew members unhurt

By Marilyn Malara
Crew members of the Kon-Tiki2 raft expedition to and from Peru and Easter Island pose in front of a naval vessel en route to their rescue. The team spent 114 days on the Pacific Ocean, having arrived on Easter Island on the 43rd day, but needed to be rescued before they could reach their final destination. Photo courtesy of Kon-Tiki2.com
Crew members of the Kon-Tiki2 raft expedition to and from Peru and Easter Island pose in front of a naval vessel en route to their rescue. The team spent 114 days on the Pacific Ocean, having arrived on Easter Island on the 43rd day, but needed to be rescued before they could reach their final destination. Photo courtesy of Kon-Tiki2.com

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 18 (UPI) -- A freight ship rescued 14 crew members with the Kon-Tiki2 raft expedition after they sent a distress call 114 days into a journey across the Pacific Ocean.

The expedition, consisting of two balsa rafts attempting to recreate the original 1947 trip of the Kon-Tiki raft from South America to Easter Island and back again, ended early due to "atypical" weather conditions blamed on this year's El Nino.

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The crew was transferred from two balsa rafts onto the Hokuetsu Ushaka freight ship, which has a crew of 18 Filipinos and three Korean officers, organizers reported Friday. They added the crew will be sleeping in the ship's fitness room. Their rafts were dismantled by the crew safely.

On Thursday, organizers announced the end of the Kon-Tiki2 expedition after 114 days and 4,500 nautical miles traveled in the southeast Pacific Ocean.

"We have shown that balsa rafts can sail to Easter Island. This is a first, in modern times," said expedition leader Torgeir Higraff. "We have also made good progress on the return journey, but this is an El Nino year and the weather patterns we have encountered have been atypical. We realize that reaching South America will take too long and we prefer to evacuate to ensure safety for all."

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Crew members left Lima, Peru, aboard the rafts starting Nov. 7 and arrived on Easter Island before Christmas. The rafts began their return voyage to South America on Jan. 6, 2016.

"In a normal year, we would have reached South America by now. Instead, we are still 900 nautical miles from land and the weather forecasts are not promising," Higraff said. "The crew is at good health and spirit, and there is no emergency situation. These rafts have proven to be exceptional vessels at sea. They have impressed us by their seaworthiness in all sorts of weather, over enormous and remote waters. Needless to say, it is sad to end the expedition without reaching South America."

The mainly Norwegian crew of the Kon-Tiki2 expedition sought to recreate Thor Heyerdahl's famous voyage from South America to Polynesia and back using two rafts. Such an expedition has not been completed in modern times, the team said, and is meant to study human migration patterns.

The Chilean Navy coordinated the crew's safe rescue. No crew members were hurt during the 114-day expedition.

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The Rahiti Tane seen from Tupac during transfer of crew. (Photo by Torgeir)

Posted by KonTiki2 on Sunday, February 21, 2016

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