Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chinese Ocean-Crossing Sailboat Meets Premature End

This is a real shame, but fortunately no one was hurt. In a Chinese twist on the Kon-Tiki voyage, Nelson Liu and his crew sailed a Chinese junk around the world, but the boat was run over by a Liberian-flagged freighter just short of making its destination. This was a damn cool voyage with a crew of Chinese, Taiwanese, American, and Japanese sailors, some of whom were picked up right here in San Francisco before they crossed the Pacific.

Where Kon-Tiki was Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 proof-of-concept that pre-Columbian South Americans could have colonized Polynesia (which we know now from DNA evidence is not the case), the Chinese junk was intended to show that the Chinese could have visited North America before Columbus. There's no proof that such a thing happened, although in my eyes, the proof-of-concept is unnecessary: there's no question that they could have done so. The Ming navy had bigger ships than Columbus, before Columbus. Frankly I think Heyerdahl and Liu were both more interested in having a blast sailing around the world than in science, but more power to them both - I'm just jealous they had the cajones to carry it out. I wish I could've jumped on board when they were here!

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