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Thor Heyerdahl

Bold explorer who risked his life in reed boats to prove idiosyncratic theories of how early man crossed the seas

Thor Heyerdahl, who has died of cancer aged 87, was one of the great individualistic standard-bearers of mid-20th-century adventure. In 1947, he and his five-person crew climbed aboard Kon-Tiki, an experimental balsa raft, and swept atop the Pacific’s Humboldt current from Peru to the Tuamotu islands – and into history. His achievement, Heyerdahl announced to the world, proved that New World mariners from the east might have sailed into Polynesia, contradicting the general assumption that it had been populated from the west.

Today, there is no question that Kon-Tiki demonstrated, in the words of archaeologist Glyn Daniel, the possibility – but not the actuality – of entering the Pacific from east to west on a balsa raft. The project lay at the heart of Heyerdahl’s life’s work – trying to prove his conviction that the cultures of the ancient world were sometimes linked by sailors who could cross oceans.

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Hotel check

St Enodoc Hotel, Rock

Mmm. Looks a bit like an old people’s home with its sunny yellow-rendered exterior. Yes, I know what you mean. But step inside and you get a completely different feel for the place. It was built in 1928 as a private home for the Siamese royal family but has been transformed into a modern hotel. The interior is by Emily Todhunter (who decked out a wing of Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire and Ivana Trump’s London restaurant). There’s a large granite fireplace, ethnic rugs and underfloor heating in the spacious and light lounge.

And the bedrooms? They’re tastefully decorated with modern ethnic bedspreads, distressed wood or brightly painted furniture in vivid blues, reds or greens. Some have iron beds and window seats on which to read a book or gaze at the stunning estuary views. The white bathroom suites have chrome towel rails and smart Gilchrist & Soames toiletries that you will want to take home with you. Nice touches include fresh flowers. The four family suites are equipped with fridges and microwaves and some have a separate lounge area for kids.

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