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OSLO, Norway (April 5, 2002 - Reuters)---Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific on a balsa raft and the Atlantic in a reed vessel, is seriously ill with cancer, his oldest son said on Friday.

Heyerdahl, who won worldwide acclaim with his 1947 voyage across the Pacific on a replica of an aboriginal balsa raft called Kon-Tiki, was taken to the hospital over Easter in Italy, where he spent a family holiday.

"The situation is serious," his eldest son, Thor Heyerdahl, Jr., 63, told Reuters. "The cancer has spread to his brain."

Heyerdahl, 87, was treated for skin cancer last summer, while working on his book "The Hunt for Odin," in which he said that Odin, a Norse mythology god, might have been a real king.

Heyerdahl's exploits also included risking his life on Ra, a reed vessel made of papyrus, crossing the Atlantic to show that the ancient Egyptians could have done it.

Some historians have criticized Heyerdahl's findings, saying they are based on insufficient evidence, but his son said he still believed in his old theories and chased them.

Heyerdahl traveled earlier this year to Samoa in the Pacific, where he participated in archaeological studies of a discovery that could be an ancient pyramid.

Heyerdahl, married for a third time, has four children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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