For most of us, research is something you "Google," or, if you've really got the eye of the tiger, research might be something you "library." Either way, for 99.9 percent of us, research is something we do from a desk or couch and not, say, by crossing the polar ice caps on foot.
Time to meet the 0.1 percent.
5Thor Heyerdahl Crosses the Pacific Ocean on a Raft
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"Anthropologist" sounds like a boring job, but then again so did "archeologist" before Indiana Jones came along. But where real archeologists don't actually bullwhip their way to scientific discovery, some anthropologists do think that science is best accomplished through manly adventure. For instance, adventurer and winner of Manliest Baby Name of the Year 1914 Thor Heyerdahl wanted to prove a point about the migration patterns of ancient tribes, and in 1947 he decided that the best way would be to build a crude raft and sail for several thousand miles on the open ocean to see if he would die.
Why? Well, his theory was that the Polynesian Islands were settled by people who sailed there from Peru on flimsy rafts made of balsa wood. And how else could you find out if such a thing was possible? Now, you'd think that assembling a crew to sail 4,300 miles on a raft made of model airplane material would be tough, but Thor was so ballsy that he advertised with this simple message:
"Am going to cross the Pacific on a simple raft to support a theory ... Will you come? Reply at once."
"Must enjoy long walks on beach, spitting in God's eye."
For all anyone knew, the theory could have been "People are stupid" or "Humans resort to cannibalism faster than you'd think," but five brave people joined up anyway. Heyerdahl named his danger-raft the Kon-Tiki, which is either the name of the Inca sun god or Norwegian for "suicidal," depending on who you ask. The raft itself was nothing more than "nine balsa wood tree trunks lashed together with hemp rope."
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"Look at this boat. The ocean wouldn't dare fuck with us."
And all the fluttering flags and badass ethnic-looking sails in the world could not change the fact that six guys stranded themselves on a barge in the Pacific Ocean for 100 days. Sure, they had water and provisions, but look at the thing. Some of us can barely stand hanging out in a four-bedroom house with our family during the holidays -- can you imagine spending three months at sea in a space that amounts to an open mobile home? With five other men?
On the 101st day, they made it. The "boat" hit a reef in French Polynesia and beached on an uninhabited island. But it didn't prove his point; even though Heyerdahl had proved that the journey was possible, no one believed that this was actually how Polynesia was populated. Science basically patted him on the head for trying his best and told him to run along. Only recently has DNA testing revealed that there was definitely some DNA swapping between Polynesians and South Americans before Europeans made it to the islands in 1722, so everyone would decide that he was at least partially right, decades later. Totally worth it.
"In the meantime ... WHEEEEE!"
So how could anybody top that? Well ...
4Alain Bombard Shipwrecks Himself on Purpose
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Where Heyerdahl had to risk a potentially deadly shipwreck in his pursuit of the truth, in 1952 a French doctor named Alain Bombard just skipped right to that part. He wanted to see what it would be like to survive a shipwreck if the worst case scenario happened: just you, alone, on a raft, with no food or water. Basically like a tigerless and much more boring Life of Pi. According to Bombard, all a stranded sailor needed to survive an ocean voyage was ingenuity, and damn it, he was out to prove that shit the hard way.
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That raft is actual size.
Starting in Monaco, Bombard drifted the Atlantic Ocean in his 15-foot inflatable raft, eating nothing but raw fish and plankton and drinking captured rainwater and half a pint of seawater a day (note that it's generally believed that seawater will eventually kill you if you consume enough).
But for weeks he survived this way. On Day 53, Alain met up with a tanker whose crew politely informed him that he was 600 miles off course from his destination. Twelve days later, Bombard landed in Barbados and was immediately hospitalized for his efforts. But he did it! After 65 days and 2,700 fucking miles, a severely malnourished and desperately thirsty Alain Bombard proved that a stranded sailor could cross the Atlantic. All he had to do was spend every minute of his journey fishing and pressing and drinking fluids out of the fish he caught.
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And as a result of Bombard's journey, lifeboat makers began to take notice when he told them to put fishing gear in every boat. He also proved that you don't even have to be a sailor to survive this situation -- Bombard could hardly navigate. He just drifted his way across the ocean, proving that anybody could do it. Thanks, we'll take your word for it, buddy.