In 1968 the transoceanic solitary sailor BernardIn Moitessier participated in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, which would reward the first sailor as well as the fastest sailor to circumnavigate the Earth solo and non-stop.

Moitessier was spotted passing the Falkland Islands, heading northbound, and fast. Fast enough, in fact, for it to be assumed that he would win. But then suddenly, and for no apparent reason connected with the race, he decided he would not continue north at all, but would turn due east, and head into the Indian Ocean.

In due course he explained himself, in a letter squeezed into a can that he fired from a slingshot toward a passing merchantman:

"My intention is to continue the voyage, still nonstop, toward the Pacific Islands, where there is plenty of sun and more peace than in Europe. Please do not think I am trying to break a record. 'Record' is a very stupid word at sea. I am continuing nonstop because I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul."

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This is Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia where Thor Heyerdahl's now famous KON-TIKI raft made landfall on the 11th of August 1947, after having set out on the 28th of April from Peru to drift across the Pacific, as pre-Inca voyagers are believed to have drifted from South America to Polynesia.

As the 32-year-old ethnologist and adventurer reported at the time:

"This marks the conclusion - and, as such, the success - of our expedition. In the nearly fifteen weeks we have made the drift of more than 4,000 miles in the flow of the Peruvian (Humboldt) and South Equatorial Currents.

After three days of trying to get around long, low Raroia Reef, a spot in the French Tuamotu Islands at about Latitude 16.30 South and 144.3 West- we finally were drawn right in among the coral rocks. As there was no choice left to us, we directed the raft right into the roaring twenty-five-foot waves that broke in the area. All men were ordered to cling to the basic nine logs that form the body of the raft. When 600 yards from shore, we grounded on a low, half submerged mass of coral. Giant breakers came in and threw us onto other rocks, each a little closer to shore

The balsa-wood raft was taking an awful beating. Our hut was smashed to bits, and our hardwood mast was carried away. The steering oar went, and the cross logs from the stern and the bow. But the main logs held together, and we all clung to them, hoping for a chance to leap from them to some protruding coral and make our way along them to shore

Finally our chance came. We jumped onto some sharply pointed coral, along which we made our way 500 yards to shore. We are still there, on a tiny uninhabited island.

We have made several trips out to the marooned logs which constitute the remains of our raft, and have rescued most of our equipment. We also have our water and food supplies, and we are sleeping under the large Kin-Tiki sail- now stretched between two trees.

We will try to get the remaining logs into some quiet lagoon near here, and possibly we will be able to find some natives who can help us salvage the remains.

We are all in good condition and feel thankful that we have been able to save such things as food, water and an improvised radio."

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More than 80 years ago, Oskar Speck, a 25-year old German, starving and out of work, decided to leave Germany. He had heard there might be work in the copper mines in Cyprus. He had just enough money to equip his tiny "Faltboot" (folding boat) which he took to Ulm by train where, beside the Danube, he put the frame together, pulled the rubber-and-canvas skin over it, loaded up, and, without any fuss or farewell from anyone, set off to paddle down the river in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea.

Seven years and four months later, on the 20th of September 1939, he coaxed his kayak through the surf and on to the beach at Saibai, an island 60 or 70 miles north from Thursday Island. It was two weeks after the start of World War II - but Oskar didn't know about that. At his bow, often smothered in the flying surf, fluttered the tiny Swastika which he had brought from Germany with him. Three Australian police were waiting for him to berth his kayak. If this was the German invasion, these cops could handle it. “Well done, feller!” they said, shaking his hand warmly. “You’ve made it—Germany to Australia in THAT. But now we’ve got a piece of bad news for you. You are an enemy alien. We are going to intern you.” Read the full story here.

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