From Norway to Greenland on a pre-Columbian raft

Have you ever heard about the Kon Tiki expedition? Studvest has met two Swiss guys who are planning to travel from Norway to Greenland on a pre-columbian raft.

DRIVING FORCES: Noe Schnyder and Nicola Nussbaumer are bulding their own pre-columbian raft.
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For most people, sailing on a sailing boat is adventure enough. That is not the case for these two young men from Switzerland. 

Noe Schnyder and Nicola Nussbaumer have set themselves a goal of travelling from Norway to Greenland in a pre-columbian raft in 2025. 

Inspired by a Norwegian explorer

– What is your project about?

– Project Expedition Leeway-25 is about sailing a pre-columbian raft from Norway to Greenland, via the Faroe Islands and Iceland. 

The pre-columbian raft had its renaissance in modern times when the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal and his crew did the Kon Tiki-expedition in 1947, where they crossed the pacific ocean on a similar raft. This expedition is what inspired Noe and Nicola to start their project. 

– Our mission is to prove that those rafts could actually beat up against the wind and could sail more efficiently than previously assumed. 

– Why are you doing it?

– It's the adventure, and the people we get to know during such a project. It's the feeling of belonging to a big family working towards the same goal, says Noe. 

Nicola agrees, and adds:

– It's also the challenge of designing and building a vessel that does not only need sailing capabilities unmatched for its kind, but also provides as much comfort as possible in conditions as harsh as the North Atlantic. 

Noe and Nicola also admit that some of the inspiration for the project rose from boredom. 

– In the end there is always a risk. And everyone on the crew needs to be aware of it. That is a decision everyone needs to make for themselves.

Noe Schnyder

– We did not just want to study and work in an office afterwards, we wanted to do something else, something memorable for us. In a way it was the idea of adventure and exploring something new that brought us into the research of these archetypical vessels. 

Not their first tango

Back in July 2022, the crew – five people at the time – set themselves the extraordinary goal of crossing the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and FInland on a self-built raft. First starting as a fun project, it turned out to be a valuable test-run for their new project. 

– We've learned a lot about sailing these rafts, about their «behaviour» at sea, and have had several breakthroughs concerning the steering technique with these centerboards, says Noe. 

Nevertheless, the friends face a number of new challenges. 

– The Bothnian Gulf is like a large fjord, with rather calm waters. It was a great test-run sailing wise, but cannot serve as an indication of how it's going to be in the North Atlantic.

CALM WATERS: In 2022 Noe and Nicola crossed the Gulf of Bothnia on this self-built raft.

Navigating fear

– Fear isn't necessarily a bad thing. It makes us cautious so that we take the dangers seriously. 

Safety is the top priority for the two of them. They have not spared on the equipment onboard. Each member is provided with survival suits and has completed a survival at sea-course as well as a detailed first aid course specifically for emergency situations at sea. They say that they also have a large team of experts in the background to advise them on any safety issues. That being said, Noe and Nicola are aware of the seriousness of the project. 

– In the end there is always a risk. And everyone on the crew needs to be aware of it. That is a decision everyone needs to make for themselves, says Noe. 

From Norway with Norwegians?  

Noe and Nicola are still gathering their crew. Still, space is limited and the journey will take weeks, so they have to keep the crew below seven people. 

– What are important traits to have if you want to do an expedition like this? 

– Everything that makes you a good team-player is certainly important. You need to be trustworthy and reliable. And you should be curious and willing to learn new things. 

– Why Norway to Greenland? 

– As a seafaring nation with large amounts of wood, Norway is an interesting choice for the adventurers. It simplifies logistics and the law is similar, which makes all the contracts and communication easier. And the route to Greenland has never been done in a pre-columbian raft before, says Noe, and adds:

– Regarding the cold, we'll just have to deal with it. After all it's no vacation we are planning. 

– Do you have any Norwegians on your team? 

– No, but we would love to. A raft expedition seems like one of the most Norwegian things to do, so it would be a shame to launch without a Norwegian on board. 


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