Follow the Waves


One learns more from listening than speaking.  And both the wind and the people who continue to live close to nature sill have much to tell us which we cannot hear within university walls.”

Thor Heyerdahl

 The Pacific

Yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914 – April 18, 2002). Anyone who reads about his Kon-Tiki expedition, the 8,000 kilometre voyage across the Pacific Ocean in a self-built raft, cannot help but think back to the legendary Polynesian navigators that lived thousands of years before the Kon-Tiki set sail.

The Polynesians developed a system of navigation that allowed them to make extended voyages across thousands of miles of trackless ocean, notorious for its capricious unpredictability. They travelled to remote islands throughout the southern Pacific, gaining knowledge from their natural world.

Navigators were held in high esteem within Polynesian culture.  Each island established a guild of navigators which allowed oral traditions to be passed from mentor to apprentice, often in the form of a song.  A navigator memorized everything, including the motion of specific stars as they would rise and set on the horizon.  Much like our Viking friends, they understood weather patterns and the season of travel, cloud formations and the flight path of birds. Yet, the Polynesians used navigational techniques that made them distinctive. They watched the waves, deciphering from their direction and type which course to take.  And they observed the soft shimmer spread on the horizon that came from islands just below the skyline.

Modern navigators are still baffled by the accomplishments of the Polynesian seafarers.  Their navigational feats remain unequalled.

“For every minute, the future is becoming the past.”

Thor Heyerdahl

Who is Listening?



“One learns more from listening than speaking. And both the wind and the people who continue to live close to nature still have much to tell us which we cannot hear within university walls.”

Thor Heyerdahl

When I was a teenager, I read the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition at one sitting, finishing in the early hours of the morning.

It has been over 60 years since a remarkable team of 6 explorers, led by the adventure-seeking Thor Heyerdahl set up to prove that is was possible for a primitive raft made from balsa wood and other native materials to safely sail the Pacific.  Inspired by the legends and Inca raft drawings from the days of the Conquistadors, they set sail for 101 day covering, 4300 nautical mile (4,948 miles/7,964 kilometers). They successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Tuamotu Islands.

Thor Heyerdahl listened to the accounts of history, the crafts-people who knew how to build rafts, his fellow adventurers and to the sounds of nature.  Listening gave him another narrative to tell the world. And the world listened. The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Sea has been translated in 67 languages.

This week, the focus will be listening.  Most agree that it is a skill that takes practice and patience.  Most agree that there are rewards for nurturing the talent.  Yet, it seems that we prefer to talk. There are more courses on developing speaking skills than there are on strengthening listening capacity.  Bryant H McGill, editor of the world-renown McGill Reference Series, once said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

Respect is the basis for dialogue, conversations, and debates.  There are many voices in this world that need to be heard.  Who is listening?