Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Colonel Percy Fawcett

info from: http://www.unmuseum.org/fawcett.htm

He charted the wilderness of South America, but then disappeared without a trace.

"Do you know anything about Bolivia?" asked the President of the Royal Geographical Society to Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett early in 1906. The Colonel replied that he didn't and the President went on to explain the tremendous economic potential of South America and also the complete lack of reliable maps. "Look at this area!" he said, pushing a chart in front of Fawcett, "It's full of blank spaces because so little is known of it."

The President went on to explain that the lack of well-defined borders in South America was leading to tension in that region. Much of the area was 'rubber country' where vast forests of rubber trees could be tapped to provide the world's need for rubber and generate revenue for countries like Bolivia and Brazil. The lack of defined borders could lead to war. An expedition to mark the borders could not be led by either a Bolivian or a Brazilian. Only a neutral third party could be trusted with the job and the Royal Geographical Society had been asked to act as a referee.

Now the President of the Society wanted to know if Fawcett was interested in the position. It would be a dangerous job. Disease was rampant there. Some of the native tribes had a reputation for savagery. Without hesitation, though, the Colonel took the job.

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was born in 1867 in Devon, England. At the age of nineteen he was given a commission in the Royal Artillery. He served in Ceylon for several years where he met and married his wife. Later he performed secret service work in North Africa. Fawcett found himself bored with Army life and learned the art of surveying, hoping to land a more interesting job. Then in 1906 came the offer from the Society: His ticket to adventure.

The Colonel arrived in La Plaz, Bolivia, in June of 1906 ready to start his expedition. After a disagreement with the government over expenses ,Fawcett started into the heart of the continent to begin the boundary survey. He quickly found that just getting to the area where he was to be working would be an ordeal in itself. The trail lead up a precipitous path to a pass in the mountains at 17,000 feet. It took him and his companions two hours to go four miles and climb 6,000 feet. The pack mules would struggle up the path 30 feet at a time, then stop, gasping for breath in the thin air. The party was afraid that if they overworked the animals, they would die.

Hostile People

Arriving at the town of Cobija, Fawcett quickly got a taste of how difficult life was in the interior of South America. Disease was common and he was told that the death rate in the town was nearly fifty percent a year. Cut off from the outside world, many depressed inhabitants sought comfort by abusing alcohol. One night one of the local army officers became enraged by his subordinate's refusal to join him in a card game. Drunk, the officer drew his sword and went after the man, injuring him. When another soldier tried to assist the injured man the officer turned on him, chasing him around a hut. The fellow sought refuge in Fawcett's room, but the officer followed him inside.

"Where is that dirty so-and-so?" the officer roared. "Where have you hidden him?"

When Fawcett reprimanded the officer for chasing unarmed men with his sword, the officer cursed at the Colonel and drew his revolver. Fawcett grabbed the man's wrist and struggled with him, finally forcing the gun from his hand.

Bolivia was a lawless frontier is those days, much like the American West had been a half century before. Fawcett, in fact, met an American gunslinger named Harvey. The red-bearded, silent man was quick with his revolver and sure with his aim. Harvey, a bandit, had found the United States too civilized and dodged the Texas Rangers, working his way down through Mexico into South America. He had held up a mining company in a neighboring country, and there was a large reward on his head. Boliva had no extradition law, however, and he was safe in this new frontier.

Colonel Fawcett was appalled by treatment of the native South American Indians. Although slavery was illegal, rubber plantation owners would often organize trips into the jungle for the purpose of capturing slaves to be used as rubber collectors. Some of the tribes, in return, became quite hostile toward those of European decent. Fawcett believed that if you treated the Indians with kindness and understanding, you would receive kindness in return. During a trip up the Heath River to find its source in 1910, Fawcett had a unique opportunity to test his theory.

He and his group had been warned off traveling up the Heath because the tribes along it had a reputation for unrestrained savagery. "To venture up into the midst of them is sheer madness," exclaimed an army major. Fawcett went anyway.

After a week paddling up the river, the party rounded a bend and ran straight into an Indian encampment perched on a sandbar. The natives were as surprised as the expedition. "Dogs barked, men shouted, women screamed and reached for their children" Fawcett recalled. The natives hid in the trees while the group grounded their canoes on the sandbar. Arrows whizzed by the men or fell around them. Fawcett tried some peace overtures using native words he had learned, but the message didn't seem to be getting through. Then he had an idea. One of the group was seated just beyond arrow range and was told to play his accordion. The man sang "A Bicycle Made for Two", "Suwannee River", "Onward Christian Soldiers" and other tunes. Finally Fawcett noticed the lyrics had changed to "They've-all-stopped-shooting-at-us." Sure enough, the singer was right. Fawcett approached the natives and greeted them. Gifts were exchanged as a sign of friendship.

Not all contacts with the Indians ended so well. During a trip down the Chocolatal River, the pilot of the boat Fawcett was traveling on went off to inspect a nearby road. When he didn't come back Fawcett found him dead with 42 arrows in his body.

Dangerous Animals

People were only one of the dangers of the jungle. The animal kingdom was another. One night while camped near the Yalu River ,the Colonel was climbing into his sleeping bag when he felt something "hairy and revolting" scuttle up his arm and over his neck. It was a gigantic apazauca spider. It clung to his hand fiercely while Fawcett tried to shake it off. The spider finally dropped to the ground and walked away without attacking. The animal's bite is poisonous and sometimes fatal.

Vampire bats were also a nuisance in some remote areas. At night these creatures would come to bite and lap up blood from sleepers. Fawcett reported that though they slept under mosquito nets, any portion of bodies touching the net or protruding beyond it would be attacked. In the morning they would find their hammocks saturated with blood.

Near Potrero, wild bulls became a problem for one of Fawcett's expeditions. The group was traveling in an ox cart which gave them some protection. Even so, the group was attacked by three bulls one day. They managed to drive them off only after killing one animal and riddling the other two with bullets. On that same trip Fawcett was fifty yards behind the rest of the group when a big red bull appeared between him and the cart. The Colonel wasn't carrying a rifle and there were no trees or other places to seek refuge. Fawcett was able to get past the animal, as it snorted, lashed its tail and tore up the ground, by moving slowly while fixing it with a a hopefully hypnotic stare.

Snakes were also a constant threat too. Once while traveling with a Texan named Ross, they were attacked by a seven-foot long "Bushmaster," a deadly poisonous snake. The men leapt out of the way as the Texan pulled his revolver, putting two slugs through the ugly head of the creature. On close examination Ross realized the snake had bitten him, but the fangs had sunk into his tobacco pouch. His skin showed two dents where the fangs had pressed against him, but never broke through. His skin was wet with venom. The pouch had saved his life.

Fawcett often found it necessary to swim rivers in order to get a rope across for hauling equipment over. The Colonel had to be very careful there were no cuts or open sores on his body that might attract piranha fish. Swarms of these fish have been known to strip the flesh off a man in minutes if he was unlucky enough to fall into the water were they where congregated. One of Fawcett's companions lost two fingers to them while washing his blood stained hands in the river.

Though not poisonous, the giant anaconda is probably the most feared snake in the jungle. Fawcett had a run-in with one not long after he arrived in South America. In his diary he noted: "We were drifting easily along the sluggish current not far below the confluence of the Rio Negro when almost under the bow of the igarit'e [boat] there appeared a triangular head and several feet of undulating body. It was a giant anaconda. I sprang for my rifle as the creature began to make its way up the bank, and hardly waiting to aim, smashed a .44 soft-nosed bullet into its spine, ten feet below the wicked head."

The boat stopped so that the Colonel could examine the body. Despite being fatally wounded, "shivers ran up and down the body like puffs of wind on a mountain tarn." Though they had no measuring device along with them, Fawcett estimated the creature was sixty-two feet in length and 12-inches in diameter.

Indifferent Nature

Colonel Fawcett probably came closest to death during his trips not from human or animal agents but from the geography of the land itself. While traveling down the uncharted Madidi River by raft, his expedition encountered a series of dangerous rapids. With each the speed of the rafts increased until they were rushing down the river uncontrolled. Finally, the river widened and the velocity slowed.

The crews had just given a sigh of relief when they rounded a steep bluff and the roar of a waterfall filled their ears. One of the rafts was able to make it to shore, but Fawcett's was caught in the current. With the water too deep to use a pole to snag the bottom and turn away, the raft shot over the drop.

Fawcett later recounted, "...the raft seemed to poise there for an instant before it fell from under us. Turning over two or three times as it shot through the air, the balsa crashed down into the black depths."

The group survived, but lost much of their equipment. "Looking back we saw what we had come through. The fall was about twenty feet high, and where river dropped the canyon narrowed to a mere ten feet across; through this bottleneck the huge volume of water gushed with terrific force, thundering down into the a welter of brown foam and black-topped rocks. It seemed incredible that we could have survived that maelstrom!"

During a trip to map the Rio Verde River and discover its source, Fawcett came face to face with starvation. The expedition started well: The land around the mouth of the river had plenty of game and the group took what they estimated to be three weeks worth of food with them. Then the expedition was forced to abandon their boats because of rapids, and had to continue up the riverbank on foot.

Because the expedition needed to minimize the weight they would carry, Fawcett decided to bury some of his equipment and 60 gold sovereigns (worth about $300) in metal cases near where they landed. Fawcett was amazed when years later stories came to him about a "Verde Treasure" that had been left behind by his expedition. The story had been retold and embellished so many times that the size of the treasure had been magnified to 60,000 gold sovereigns. The Colonel was particularly amused because the story never mentioned the fact the he had retrieved the cases after the trip was over. He was sure the story would attract future would-be treasure hunters.

As they walked upriver the water, which had been clean, turned bitter and no fish could be found. Then game also seemed to disappear. Soon the supplies they carried were exhausted. For ten more days the group pressed on, despite only having consumed some bad honey and a few bird eggs. Finally, the found the source of the river and charted it (left).

Freed from the responsibility of charting the river, Fawcett tried to figure out the quickest route to somewhere they could get food. Deciding the best chance was to go over the Ricardo Franco Hills, the group tried to work their way up canyons that would lead them to the top.

The hills were flat-topped and mysterious. They looked like giant tables and their forested tops were completely cut off from the jungle below. When Fawcett later told Conan Doyle about these hills, the writer pictured the isolated tops populated with surviving dinosaurs. Doyle used these hills as the location for his famous novel The Lost World.

The expedition quickly found that crossing the hills was futile, and returning the way they had come impossible. Colonel Fawcett instead decided to follow the direction the streams in the region were flowing, hoping that it would get them out. Days passed and no food. One of the expedition's Indian assistants lay down to die, and only the prodding of Fawcett's hunting knife in his ribs got him moving again.

After twenty days without food, the group was at its limit. Fawcett prayed audibly for relief. Then fifteen minutes later a deer appeared 300 yards away. Fawcett unslung his gun. The target was too far away and his hands were shaking, but,in a miracle the Colonel could only attribute to a higher power, the bullet found its mark, killing the deer instantly.

The group consumed every part of the deer: skin, fur and all. The expedition's fortune had turned and within six days they were back in a town with the Verde trip only a bad memory.

For the first three years Fawcett had worked for the Boundary Commission charting the region. When that job came to an end, Fawcett retired from the military and continued exploring on his own, financing the trips with help from newspapers and other businesses. After returning to England to serve in World War I, the Colonel was again drawn back to the South American jungle. As time went on, he became more and more interested in the archaeology of the region. In total he made seven expeditions into wilderness between 1906 and 1924.

The Final Expedition

Finding reliable companions for his trips had always been a problem, but by 1925 his oldest son, Jack, had reached an age where he could join his father in the field.

Fawcett, by examining records and sifting through old stories, had become convinced that there was a large, ancient city concealed in the wilds of Brazil. Fawcett called this city "Z" and planned an expedition that consisted of himself, his son, Jack, and a friend of Jack's. Fawcett had always preferred small expeditions that could live off the land, thinking that a small group would look less like an invasion to the Indians and therefore be less likely to be attacked. The route was carefully planned.

Fawcett, concerned with others, left word that should they not return, a rescue expedition was not to be mounted. He felt that it would be too dangerous.

On May 29th, 1925, a message was sent from Fawcett to his wife, indicating that they were ready to enter unexplored territory. The three were sending back the assistants that had helped them to this point and were ready to go on by themselves. Fawcett told his wife "You need have no fear of failure..." It was the last anyone ever heard of the expedition. They disappeared into the jungle never to be seen again.

Despite Fawcett's wishes, several rescue expeditions tried to find him, but without success. Occasionally there were intriguing reports that he'd been seen, but none of these were ever confirmed.

So what happened to Colonel Fawcett? What danger that he had eluded in the past had gotten him this time? Hostile Indians? A giant anaconda? Piranhas? Disease? Starvation? Or was it, as one tale told, he'd lost his memory and lived out the rest of his life as a chief among a tribe of cannibals?

In 1996 an expedition was put together by René Delmotte and James Lynch look for traces of Fawcett. It didn't get far. Indians stopped the group, threatened their lives, and detained them for some days. They were finally released, but $30,000 worth of equipment was confiscated. Even seventy years after his disappearance, it seems the jungle is still too dangerous a place for anyone to follow in Colonel Percy Fawcett's footsteps. Copyright Lee Krystek 1998. All Rights Reserved.

Amazon Adventure



Coming in 2010 the new novel that continues Fawcett's quest to find his Lost City of Z

The date is 1925

The location is the Amazon Jungle.

Colonel Percy Fawcett, his son Jack and close friend Raleigh Rimmell, are looking for a lost City rumoured to be hidden in the unexplored regions of the cannibal inhabited jungle.

Dead Horse Camp is situated at the boundary of unexplored territory. Ahead lay the unknown, danger, and perhaps a Lost Civilisation.

The three explorers enter the jungle never to be seen or heard from again. Until now!

Present day - New information that reveals what befell the Fawcett expedition reaches the civilised world. A team is put together to travel to the Amazon jungle. Their task is to unravel the mystery and find the Lost City of Z.

But the journey to the Lost City is just the beginning. Inside lurks danger and a secret those guarding it will kill to protect. Survival will not be easy, escape impossible.

Fawcett's adventure continues in AMAZON ADVENTURE Journey to Colonel Fawcett's Lost City

An exciting action fueled archaeological thriller.

Read Advance Chapters

FAWCETT ADVENTURE WEBSITE: http://www.fawcettadventure.com

Fantasic Books of Adventure - Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar

Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar: Rennes-le-Chateau Secrets and Discoveries (Paperback)

by Ben Hammott (Author, Illustrator)


100 years ago a French priest embedded clues in his church leading to a secret location.
Those clues have been solved.
That location has been found.

The SECRET is revealed!

Treasure, tombs, secret codes and hidden clues, a brutal murder, the Knights Templar and 2000 year old relics - it could be the premise for a new archaeological thriller. Except that it is real.

What begins as a treasure hunt and a bit of fun and adventure, leads an Englishman to the tiny French village of Rennes-le-Chateau, where an ordinary man unlocked a mysterious puzzle set up by a priest 100 years ago.

Abbe Berenger Sauniere became mysteriously and fabulously rich after finding a hidden parchment when carrying out repairs to the Church of Mary Magdalene. Subsequent to Sauniere's death in 1917, speculation was rife about the possible source of his sudden wealth.Some have said it was proceeds from the sale of an ancient or a Royal Treasure. Or it might have been hush money paid by the Vatican to keep Sauniere quiet, but if so what did Sauniere find that they were so afraid of?

As many believe, the mysterious priest had embedded clues in his church decoration leading to a treasure or a secret, and the source of his wealth. When Ben Hammott enters the church he soon spots something that everyone else has somehow missed - a key that deciphers some of the embedded clues.

Painstakingly deciphering and following the clues, Ben is led to a discovery of 2000-year-old artefacts, a treasure of gold, and a Knights Templar tomb containing a mummifed body under a shroud!

A fantastic Treasure Hunt that ends in a startling revelation. 10/10

Its what adventure is all about.

Ben Hammott is also the author of a new book about Colonel Fawcett called AMAZON ADVENTURE

Coming in 2010 the new novel that continues Fawcett's quest to find his Lost City of Z

The date is 1925

The location is the Amazon Jungle.

Colonel Percy Fawcett, his son Jack and close friend Raleigh Rimmell, are looking for a lost City rumoured to be hidden in the unexplored regions of the cannibal inhabited jungle.

Dead Horse Camp is situated at the boundary of unexplored territory. Ahead lay the unknown, danger, and perhaps a Lost Civilisation.

The three explorers enter the jungle never to be seen or heard from again. Until now!

Present day - New information that reveals what befell the Fawcett expedition reaches the civilised world. A team is put together to travel to the Amazon jungle. Their task is to unravel the mystery and find the Lost City of Z.

But the journey to the Lost City is just the beginning. Inside lurks danger and a secret those guarding it will kill to protect. Survival will not be easy, escape impossible.

Fawcett's adventure continues in AMAZON ADVENTURE Journey to Colonel Fawcett's Lost City



5.0 out of 5 stars I don't care what the pope says..., 21 Oct 2009
I bought this book almoust 2 years ago and since then i carried it around with me everywhere. This book is "MY BIBLE". Anyone interested in the whole story of Rennes le Chateau or the holy grail should by this book! It is not just very thrilling, exciting and surprising it is also funny.. I love this book,- it is one of the best books i have read. I even bought a second copy because the first one was already wrecked because i read it so often. If you want to go on the hunt as well,- Ben is giving more than enough clues (he says) to find what he found!!! I do believe whatever Ben thinks he's found. Can't wait for the follow up!!!

5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric read, really sets the scene..., 16 Oct 2008
By ShadowFox (London, England)
I was lucky enough to have read an advanced copy of Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar and I have to say it surprised me. Considering that Ben Hammott is not a professional writer he has written a fascinating and informative account of his trips to Rennes-le-Chateau, where he has found a tomb! (Who is it? Why are they buried there?) I have read a few other books on Rennes-le-Chateau but did not get the feeling that I was there with the author and see what he sees, for example the beautiful landscape surrounding the pretty French village. With Ben Hammott's book you get a real sense of what the view is like and Ben is very good at describing what he felt at the time and makes light of any fears he had, although I am sure he actually felt like he was in danger - like at the meeting with the sinister chaps at Rosslyn Chapel! - but his determination to solve the mystery that he stumbled upon (by working out the clues in the Priest, Sauniere's church) continues throughout the book and you really get into the mind of Ben Hammott as he explains the clues that he deciphered, which helped him to proceed with his investigation.

Not only do we read about Ben Hammott's treasure hunting escapades in the remote village and climbing through caves, trekking up steep hills and mountains, but we get an insight into the every day Hammott, working at home but having his life disrupted by eerie people turning up at his door and there's even an...explosive surprise!

All-in-all I found this book an enjoyable read, (all 688 pages of it!) and found the pictures in it (331!) assisted with placing in one's mind the pretty little village anybody interested in Rennes-le-Chateau (of Da Vinci code fame) wants to visit.

I would recommend this book if you have an interest in the Da Vinci Code, Rennes-le-Chateau, treasure hunting, adventure or mysteries! Ben Hammott has been likened to Indiana Jones by a presenter from America and I have to say I agree! He has climbed down lots of caves, hiked up mountains in the middle of the night and discovered lots of secrets around Rennes-le-Chateau, like the bottle messages left by Sauniere, the Priest. Fantastic read - I would have given this book 10 stars if it was available.

The only thing I would say is that there are some (minor) grammar mistakes, but Ben is the first to admit (at the front of the book!) that he does make such mistakes when writing and it really didn't really bother me. Great book, buy it!

Oh, one more thing to add - Ben Hammott is featured in the recent documentary film Bloodline, directed by Bruce Burgess, and watching that before reading the book really gives it extra depth and you are able to see what Ben talks about in his book...enjoyed the bits at the end of the film but not so much the talking at the beginning.

5.0 out of 5 stars Lost Tomb, 11 Jan 2010
I don't normally write reviews , but this boook has astounded me.
It could have done with rather more stringent editing but nonetheless it has proved to be an enthralling read.
I have read a number of books about the RLC mystery and was amazed read how Ben managed to reach past the extensive esoterica that takes over some of the other books and arrived at a a series of solutions that produced such an amazing result. I look forward to any further information as and when it becomes available.

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have read, 9 Nov 2008
I normally do not write reviews but this book impressed me so much it encouraged me to do so. I cannot remember enjoying a book so much for a long time and I have read more than a few covering a wide range of topics.

I bought The Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar as I have been interested in the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery for many years and had visited the village a few years ago. I have read many books on the subject, some good and some not so good, but Ben's book is by far one of best, certainly the most interesting and enjoyable and I place it in my top ten of every book I have ever read!

The book covers Ben's research and discoveries from when he first heard of the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery and his later discoveries. The mystery happened around 100 years ago and concerns Berenger Sauniere, the priest of the small French village called Rennes-le-Chateau, who found something in his church that turned him from a penniless priest into a very wealthy one. Ben explains how the decorations in Berenger Sauniere's Church held hidden clues leading to locations in the surrounding landscape. By deciphering these clues Ben found these locations and what was hidden there.

I don't want to spoil it for people who don't know what Ben found yet so I will not reveal it here, but a big clue is in the title of the book, but there were also other things Ben found including some 2000 year old relics and treasure! All of Ben's discoveries are covered in detail and at times it is an hilarious read. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion, so much so that my teenage son wanted to read the book after me. He knew very little about the Rennes-le-Chateau saga but like me he thoroughly enjoyed the book. Although in places the book is funny this in no way detracts from the seriousness of Ben's clue solving and investigations into what Sauniere was up to.

It was also refreshing to read and learn something new about the mystery, something lacking in most other books on this subject. I do like Ben's style of writing as it makes for an enjoyable and easy read and the inclusion of over 300 images was a great idea as it really brings to life Ben's treasure hunt. Just like others have said, Ben has written in a way that includes you the reader in his quest. It is like you are there with him making these discoveries. if you like a good, no great story, a mystery with a smattering of suspense, treasure hunting and clue solving or an enjoyable real life adventure, I highly recommend this book to you. So join Ben on his journey, its a fantastic, interesting and enjoyable ride and more than worth the fare. Beg, borrow or buy this book and climb aboard, you will not be disappointed! 10/10

4.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Trustworthy too?, 13 Nov 2009
I bought this book a year ago, and read it in no time. It was exciting and the finds were just what you were hoping for.
So is it trustworthy, or is the author going along with the spirit of the time, and making some great "finds"? I have to say that the pictures and statements from witnesses are impressive. What puzzles me is that this "Blue-collar-guy" is so smart that he cracks all these codes, some of which are far fetched. Lots of people have tried, and this guy who has no knowledge suddenly solves it all. And on top of that he actually prefers english "cooking" to french!!

The book is too good to pass up. So go buy it. But be restrictive in what you believe!

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - can I get one in hardback?, 7 Oct 2009
Read this book and couldn't put it down. Very entertaining and informative with plenty of research material for the RLC enthusiast. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this particular subject. Probably best enjoyed alongside the 'Bloodline' DVD featuring Ben's discoveries. Excellent photography with plenty of pictures spread throughout. The style of the writing gets you firmly addicted from chapter 1. Quite a thick book for a paperback that would have benefited greatly with a hardback cover as the spine on my copy is now totally knackered and it's in danger of falling apart.

5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking!, 12 Nov 2008
By Hermione -
This is a book of two halves. You have the, sometimes hilarious and sometimes thrilling, story unfolding of the various escapades of this amateur archaeologist Ben Hammott as he makes his way through the French countryside on his quest to find the priest's secret treasure hoard.

Then there are the chapters on the incredibly detailed clue solving and treasure hunts as the author makes his amazing discoveries. All accompanied by some of the most stunning images that I've ever seen in such a book that set the scene admirably, giving you the impression you are there joining in the fun and excitement of the hunt.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is definitely in my Top Ten favourite list!

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! Fantastic! Fantastic!, 10 Oct 2008
I have had a slight interest in the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau since reading Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code but since reading Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar I am absolutely hooked! I find myself re-checking facts and taking more notes in preparation of my first visit to Rennes-le-Chateau!

If you only ever read one book about Rennes-le-Chateau then make sure this is it. It is so packed full of fascinating information and images that I just can't put it down! I feel like I've been right there with Ben on every step of his journey and I can't wait to start my own.

Fabulous read - thank you!

Ben Hammott's Website - http://www.benhammott.com

Fawcett Books of Adventure

Exploration Fawcett

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett edited by Brian Fawcett

Product Description

The mystic and legendary British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett disappeared in the unknown and unexplored territory of Brazil's Mato Grosso in 1925. For 10 years, he had wandered the forests and death-filled rivers in search of a "lost" cities; convinced he knew the location of one, he headed off for the last time--never to be heard from again. The thrilling story of what occurred during that time has now been compiled by his son from manuscripts, letters, and logbooks. What happened to him after remains a mystery. "...should be read by everyone."--Daily Telegraph.

About the Author

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was born in 1867 in Devon, England. At the age of nineteen he was given a commission in the Royal Artillery. He served in Ceylon for several years where he met and married his wife. Later he performed secret service work in North Africa. Fawcett found himself bored with Army life and learned the art of surveying, hoping to land a more interesting job. Then in 1906 came the offer from the Society: His ticket to adventure.


This book is based on the letters and memoirs of Col. Percy Fawcett. He traveled through the Amazon mapping the borders between Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil in the time of the rubber boom. His adventures range from encounters with savage primitives such as the Maricoxi (look for the chapter where the Maxubis warn him about the Maricoxi... "vincha Maricoxi chimbibi coco" ..if you visit the Maricoxi you will be food for the pot) to the dangers of electric eels and pirhanas!

Fawcett is best remembered for the ill fated expedition he launched at age 56. He, along with his eldest son and a friend, attempted to penetrate unexplored regions in search of a lost civilization. They were never heard from again. His disappearance has been a source of speculation ever since.

This is one of the most remarkable of adventures. You will experience the South America of the early 1900's in a way you never could have previously imagined. Try it...you won't be sorry.

Tom Bouklas

(This book was published in Great Britain as Exploration Fawcett and in America as Lost Trails Lost Cities)

4.0 out of 5 stars Adventures in Amazonia, March 29, 2008
Percy Fawcett was a Royal Engineer in an army artillery unit. In 1906 he volunteered to survey the border between Brazil and Bolivia to end their almost constant border disputes. The survey was challenging, and Fawcett spent the rest of his life exploring Amazonia. He kept detailed diaries, and was a great correspondent. Several years after his disappearance in 1925, his son Brian compiled many of these materials into this great adventure story.

Brian lived many years in the region, and it is possible that some of the material was written by him. There are tall tales: a 62 foot long snake, manatees that kill crocodiles, a herb that dissolves rocks, a man who survived eight volleys from a firing squad and a condor that carried a man into the mountains. Other incredible stories are factual: the no calorie sweet stevia plant, dog excrement as a curative, Copaiba balsam oil with a multitude of uses and Indians that lived in holes and who filed their teeth. However authorship was divided, the result is a fascinating portrait of a great explorer.

A few passages illustrates the quality of the writing:

"(Cobija) had been a barraca, but was abandoned and became overgrown. In 1903 the Brazilians captured it, and then were wiped out by the Bolivians, who attacked with Indians. They fired the huts with burning arrows bound in petroleum-soaked cotton, and then picked off the defenders as they were forced into the open. Not a single Brazilian escaped. Even when we arrived there --- three years afterwards --- skeletons still littered the ground."

"...Any man who fell ill became the butt of the rest, and when he died there was tremendous hilarity. The staring corpse was tied to a pole, and sparsely covered in a shallow trench scraped out with paddles on the river bank, his monument a couple of crossed twigs tied with grass. For funeral there was a drop of kachasa all around, and ho for the next victim!"

"The man continued with a personal story about his nephew. He had walked through the thick bush to a nearby camp to retrieve his horse, which had gone lame and had been left there temporarily. He noticed, when he arrived, that his new Mexican spurs had been eaten away almost completely. The owner of the camp asked him if he had walked through a certain plant about a foot high, with dark reddish leaves. The young man said he had walked through a wide area that was completely covered with such plants. 'That's it!...That's what's eaten your spurs away! That's the stuff the Incas used for shaping stones. The juice will soften rock up till it's like paste. You must show me where you found the plants.' But when they retraced the young man's steps they were unable to locate them."

"The Indians there spoke of houses with 'stars to light them, which never went out.' This was the first, but not the last time I heard of these permanent lights found occasionally in the ancient houses built by that forgotten civilization of old. I knew that certain Indians of Ecuador were reputed to light their huts at night by means of luminous plants, but that, I considered, must be a different thing altogether. There was some secret means of illumination known to the ancients that remains to be rediscovered by scientists of today--some method of harnessing forces unknown to us."

Fawcett believed that there was once a great civilization in the Amazon Basin. His last journey was based on a basalt idol given to him by Sir H. Rider Haggard that gave an 'electric current' to any who held it. A psychic who held the idol and had a vision of a great city whose citizens worshipped 'on the border of demonology'. Fawcett died trying to find that city.

Fawcett's book is a detailed description of the region and the brutalities and wonders he found there. The strong overtones in the final pages of mysticism hint at the supernatural. It's well worth the effort to find a copy.

Note: this book was published in the US as "Lost Trails, Lost Cities" and in the UK as Exploration Fawcett.

Robert C. Ross 2008

Brazilian Adventure

Peter Fleming

Amazon.com Review - While novelist Ian Fleming is best known for bringing adventurer James Bond to life, his writer brother Peter Fleming, a reporter for The Times of London, survived South American misadventures so challenging they make 007's high-risk existence seem placid in comparison. Lured by a mysterious newspaper ad, Fleming sails with an expedition to Brazil in the 1930s, attempting to answer unresolved questions about a team of explorers, headed by a British Colonel Fawcett, that disappeared in 1925. Once arrived in Brazil, Fleming's expedition falls apart, being equipped with few provisions, erroneous maps, and a despotic leader who proves to be less than fearless in the Amazon jungles. The team soon splits, with former colleagues battling the elements and competing with each other in a race for time and a search for truth. A finely crafted travel tale, with prose that's sometimes as dense and colorful as the jungles it's set in, Brazilian Adventure manages to turn the harrowing into cheeky commentary and barely contained comedy. --Melissa Rossi


5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful read, October 15, 1999
By A Customer
I can't believe nobody else has reviewed this book- it is a classic travel book and a wonderful read. It was his first book and very much a young man's piece of writing- a humorous, true account of an expedition to locate the famous explorer Col. (or was it Major?)Fawcett who vanished in the Amazon. I can't really do the book justice- just read it for yourself! Trivia: Peter was Ian Fleming's brother, Fawcet was the inspiration for Doyle's "The Lost World".

Engaging, witty and a must read!, December 14, 2000 Every so often I have to buy a new copy of Brazillian Adventure because I lend my copy to someone and they flatly refuse to return it again. This is one of the most engaging and good-humoured travel books ever. It was Fleming's first adventure and his first book - yet it became a classic work going into several editions early on and being used in schools as a study piece. It is seriously well written, and seriously engaging.

It starts with his blandly describing how he got involved in the expedition in the first place- answering an advertisement in the paper to go on a 'Fawcett hunt" (as he later called it). He thought he would go on a grand expedition to find the missing explorer Colonel Fawcett and get a little hunting done at the same time. There have been numerous books and studies done on the disappearnce of Fawcett in Brazil in the 1920's - to this day no one quite knows what happened to him, and as it turns out the expedition that Fleming was joining was not going to throw new light on matters either.

In fact the trip deteriorated badly the moment they hit Brazil, and Fleming's dry wit turns it all into a hilarious read - although it must have been desparately uncomfortable for them all. The expedition Leader was incompetent, the expedition split into two warring factions and they all ended up in a race back down the Amazon to try to get the banks in time.

Peter Fleming, in case you didn't know, is the brother of the 'James Bond' author Ian Fleming - a talent for writing seemed to run in the family. Peter continued his travels and writing career but I think this first book is the best of them all. There is also a wonderful biography on his life available but I think that is now out of print.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

David Grann

Amazon Exclusive: John Grisham Reviews The Lost City of Z

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, John Grisham has written twenty novels and one work of nonfiction, The Innocent Man. His second novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, becoming the bestselling novel of 1991. The success of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. His most recent novel, The Associate, was published in January 2009. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Lost City of Z:

In April of 1925, a legendary British explorer named Percy Fawcett launched his final expedition into the depths of the Amazon in Brazil. His destination was the lost city of El Dorado, the “City of Gold,” an ancient kingdom of great sophistication, architecture, and culture that, for some reason, had vanished. The idea of El Dorado had captivated anthropologists, adventurers, and scientists for 400 years, though there was no evidence it ever existed. Hundreds of expeditions had gone looking for it. Thousands of men had perished in the jungles searching for it. Fawcett himself had barely survived several previous expeditions and was more determined than ever to find the lost city with its streets and temples of gold.

The world was watching. Fawcett, the last of the great Victorian adventurers, was financed by the Royal Geographical Society in London, the world’s foremost repository of research gathered by explorers. Fawcett, then age 57, had proclaimed for decades his belief in the City of Z, as he had nicknamed it. His writings, speeches, and exploits had captured the imagination of millions, and reports of his last expedition were front page news.

His expeditionary force consisted of three men--himself, his 21-year-old son Jack, and one of Jack’s friends. Fawcett believed that only a small group had any chance of surviving the horrors of the Amazon. He had seen large forces decimated by malaria, insects, snakes, poison darts, starvation, and insanity. He knew better. He and his two companions would travel light, carry their own supplies, eat off the land, pose no threat to the natives, and endure months of hardship in their search for the Lost City of Z.

They were never seen again. Fawcett’s daily dispatches trickled to a stop. Months passed with no word. Because he had survived several similar forays into the Amazon, his family and friends considered him to be near super-human. As before, they expected Fawcett to stumble out of the jungle, bearded and emaciated and announcing some fantastic discovery. It did not happen.

Over the years, the search for Fawcett became more alluring than the search for El Dorado itself. Rescue efforts, from the serious to the farcical, materialized in the years that followed, and hundreds of others lost their lives in the search. Rewards were posted. Psychics were brought in by the family. Articles and books were written. For decades the legend of Percy Fawcett refused to die.

The great mystery of what happened to Fawcett has never been solved, perhaps until now. In 2004, author David Grann discovered the story while researching another one. Soon, like hundreds before him, he became obsessed with the legend of the colorful adventurer and his baffling disappearance. Grann, a lifelong New Yorker with an admitted aversion to camping and mountain climbing, a lousy sense of direction, and an affinity for take-out food and air conditioning, soon found himself in the jungles of the Amazon. What he found there, some 80 years after Fawcett’s disappearance, is a startling conclusion to this absorbing narrative.

The Lost City of Z is a riveting, exciting and thoroughly compelling tale of adventure.

(Photo © Maki Galimberti)


Non-fiction to rival the wildest adventures!, December 18, 2008

I'm a huge fan of classic and contemporary tales of adventure, but I don't normally read much non-fiction. However, David Grann's The Lost City of Z sounded too irresistible to ignore. My instincts were right; it ranks among the best thrillers I've read. What a story!

Actually, it's two stories. The first is the life story of Victorian explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett. A member of the Royal Geographical Society, Fawcett was an explorer in the days when much of the globe was truly unknown. He came from a family of modest means, and began his career in the British military stationed in Ceylon. But he achieved worldwide acclaim as an explorer of the Amazonian jungles and river ways.

Grann's book is most concerned with Fawcett's last fateful expedition, but throughout the first couple hundred pages, he recounts Fawcett's entire career and it's enthralling. It's hard to imagine the bravery it took to strike out into the absolute unknown--with little or no communication with civilization--sometimes for years at a time. Fawcett and his companions routinely faced starvation, bloodthirsty indigenous tribes, horrific insect infestations, lethal tropical diseases, deadly white-water rapids, poisonous snakes, anacondas, piranha, and other terrifying creatures. If, for instance, you're wondering what's so horrific about insects, then you haven't been treated to a graphic description of what it's like when a living human is infested with maggots beneath their skin.

Fawcett and his men (always men) faced death constantly, and it seems that he must have lost hundreds of men in the course of his career. Perhaps not hundreds. Fawcett, unlike many of his contemporaries believed in keeping expeditions small. He was far more successful than most. The chapters that detail Fawcett's interactions with the native populations of the Amazon are among the most fascinating. Fawcett followed his own instincts which often were in direct opposition of conventional wisdom. Time after time he succeeded where others failed, and where the difference between success and failure was the difference between life and death.

Here's the other thing about Percy Fawcett: I think he was the Forrest Gump of his time. His story is touched on directly or indirectly by a truly staggering number of historic figures including Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Pickford, Ian Fleming, Winston Churchill, H. Rider Haggard, TE Lawrence, and even Indiana Jones!

As fascinating as every aspect of Fawcett's story is, the real hook is the enduring mystery of Fawcett's last expedition. Over the course of his long career, Fawcett had developed a hypothesis that there was once a great civilization in the depths of the Amazon. An El Dorado-like city that he simply called "Z." This is what he single-mindedly sought at the end of his career. In 1925, accompanied by his son and a friend, Fawcett entered the jungle determined to locate the lost city of Z--and was never heard from again.

He didn't go quietly. Readers around the world waited with bated breath to learn his fate. The story was routinely resurrected for decades. In the eighty-some years since, hundreds have entered the jungle hot on his trail. Many have never returned. Author David Grann is the most recent in a long line of would-be explorers obsessed with this mystery.

And it is Grann's tale that is the second story being told. He's an unlikely adventurer--a not particularly athletic, middle-aged staff writer for The New Yorker. But Grann does get caught up in the course of researching the book. So much so that he leaves his comfortable urban life, his wife, and his infant son to enter the Brazilian jungle. Like so many others, he seeks to find out what truly happened to Fawcett, and/or if there really was a Z. We follow Grann's progress interspersed between the chapters about Fawcett. One of the most shocking aspects of Grann's expedition is just how much the Amazon has changed since Fawcett's day. Grann doesn't dwell overly on the ecological ramifications, but the juxtaposition is disturbing.

Time and time again I had to restrain myself from turning to the back of the book to see how it ends. I was as caught up in the outcome as I have been with any novel in recent memory. Success was so unlikely; I just couldn't imagine how Grann's quest would end. And I'm certainly not going to tell you. Go read this book! Run! Now!

3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, if a little disapointing, December 16, 2009
By Daniel "Jarhead" (Quantico, VA. USA) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who is looking for a straight-through chronological telling of Fawcett's fateful expedition up to his mysterious disappearance will come away disappointed. Not enough is known about what happened to Fawcett to really build any story with that sort of narrative in mind. However Grann does a decent job of jumping back and forth in time, to his travels in searach of an answer, to brief glimpses of Fawcett's life and personality. Fawcett remains an enigma at the end of the book though. Grann doesn't really do the story justice, as he spends much of the book repeatedly giving the impression that although this is a tale that has been explored often, he is more concerned with trying to convey to the reader the same sense of virgin wonderment and average Joe befuddlement that the author obviously feels himself during his travels. It reads very much like one of Grann's New Yorker articles that has been expanded to fill an entire book. Much too much time is spent giving snippets of past and present events that the overall feeling is one of a disjointed story - and collection of notes rewritten as paragraphs and chapters, rather than a narrative with an engaging flow.

4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Tale About a Victorian Era Explorer Who Should Not Be Forgotten, December 6, 2009
By Tonytoga "Tonytoga" (Houston, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
Suppose you take a middle aged, out of shape, New York based reporter who prefers air conditioning to camping, a rocker to rock climbing and an admittedly bad sense of direction, plop him in the middle of the darkest, least explored part of the Amazon rain forest and ask him to determine what happened to and then report on what he found regarding an internationally famed explorer who went missing there nearly a century ago. Would he be able to produce a story worth hearing? Surprisingly, in the case of David Grann's 'The Lost City of Z,' the answer is a decided 'yes.' In this book, Grann literally goes in search of British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett who, along with his son and a third companion, disappeared without a trace in the Amazon jungle in 1925 while searching for the fabled lost city of El Dorado, the "City of Gold." Along the way, Grann tells Fawcett's life story which in itself, is a tale worth telling. Fawcett was among the last of the great Victorian era explorers associated with the London's iconic Royal Geographical Society from wince sprang some of history's most intriguing characters. Having missed out on most of the opening of Africa in the late 19th century, Fawcett set his sights on South America, the Amazon River and the lost civilizations that legend says once lived there. In Fawcett, Grann finds a template for the courageous, stoic, never say die British explorer of the era. Grann's weaving of his own trip to South America with the history of Fawcett's life is cleverly done and allows you to go along on an exciting 21st century trip in search of history. It's not Indiana Jones exciting but it is a nicely flowing story about a man obcessed with his life's work and what probably happened to his tiny three man troop in a land that remains savage and untamed to this day. And if you enjoy this book, you might wish to consider 'The Last Days of the Incas' by Kim Maquarrie and 'Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs' by Buddy Levy as two more histories that will give great insight into the region and its pre-modern history. They were my next two books after "Z" and carried my interest well.

1.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Narrative of Gramm, August 9, 2009
By Zachary (catalunya)
There are few things more lost than the rambling, obtuse, redundant narrative that lies within the Amazon that is this book. Gramm tries earnestly to keep it going, but the reader is quite sure of the ending by, well, the beginning. The author's writing--and scant time on the ground actually looking for Z--doesn't help matters.

On of the flaws in the obsessive, leave-no-stone unturned approach to non-fiction mysteries is that after the umpteenth false sighting of or conjecture about the missing person, the stones are really not that interesting anymore.

1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book of this genre I have ever read, April 16, 2009
By cussin' gus (california) - See all my reviews
I have read tons of books on explorers and I was really looking for ward to this. I read glowing reviews of this book in Nat Geo and the NYT Book Review. Lets just say they must have read a different book than I did. To begin with, the author was supposedly following in Fawcetts footsteps on a a type of adventure of his own but he wrote very little of his journey. Furthermore, The book is about 25% endnotes, and bibliography pages. Trust me, if you are a lover of true adventure/exploration accounts and feel compelled to read this, wait for about a year when you can pick it up used on Amazon for a penny. Meanwhile, I recommend you read "Into the Heart of Borneo" to bide your time.

1.0 out of 5 stars not what I expected and that's not a good thing, April 26, 2009
By Marena (North Wales, PA) - See all my reviews
This book was full of facts but it lacked the feel of adventure that the description had portrayed. Once again (seems to be happening a lot lately) the description provided for the book did not match the contents. This book was more about the explorer himself and every other explorer for that matter, than it was about his actual quest to find the Lost City of Z and his disappearance. It felt like the writer was trying to show off how much information he had obtained about Fawcett. Read at your own risk!

3.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to a once-famous explorer, January 22, 2009
By Mark Shanks (Portland, OR) - See all my reviews
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Grann's take on the adventures of explorer Lt Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett is a welcome retelling about a man extremely well known in his time but somewhat unfamilar to modern readers. Unfortunately, he also takes us along on his own Amazonian trek, which may make for amusing reading to some (after all, he's a middle-aged writer for the New Yorker) but really adds little to a story that needs absolutely NO padding. The basis for this book is a 2005 article Grann wrote, and that may be a more distilled account .

Grann also is a little fast-and-loose. He consistently refers to Fawcett as a "Victorian explorer", when in fact Fawcett's first expedition wasn't until 5 years after Queen Victoria's death. A nit to some, but why not try harder? His style is chatty and adjective-heavy ("cold January day" is like saying "yellow canary") and adds a lot of details that may, or may not, be true, in describing every scene. And why throw in Charles Dickens' impressions of *his* ship's cabin when it was written 100 years before Fawcett's trip? For that metter, the bibliography is padded with Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, and even Hobbes' "Leviathan", but is missing two of the best books about Fawcett, Harold T. Wikins' "Mysteries of Ancient South America" and "Secret Cities of Old South America". Also missing: MAPS! How can you write a book about an Amazonian expedition and not include a SINGLE map? Photos would have been nice, too.

I've been interested in Fawcett for many years, so maybe I'm overly critical. It's still a good book, easy to read and a terrific introduction to this fascinating personality. I just wish it had a lot less Grann to it.

Fawcett Adventure

Percy Fawcett and the Lost City of Z (link)

At times I had to remind myself that everything in this story is true: a movie star really was abducted by Indians, there were cannibals, ruins, secret maps and spies; explorers died from starvation, disease, attacks by wild animals and poisonous arrows; and at stake amid the adventure and death was the very understanding of the Americas before Christopher Columbus came ashore in the New World.

David Grann, The Lost City of Z

Percy Fawcett was a unique and intrepid individual who achieved some degree of fame during his life, and for a while caught the imagination of the public after disappearing in mysterious circumstances in the Amazon. His remains have never been found, and his disappearance remains unresolved.

Aside from his notoriety as an explorer who preferred to travel with a small group of colleagues, rather than a train of dozens of native bearers, Fawcett was an artist whose inks had been displayed at the Royal Academy and a nautical engineer who patented a hull design called the ichthyoid curve that improved the speed of ships. On top of that, he was from all accounts a mean cricketer and a religious non-conformist.

Fawcett's Formative Years - Love and Buried Treasure

Percy Harrison Fawcett was born in 1867 in Torquay, Devon, and was known to all as PHF. His father, Captain Edward Boyd Fawcett, was a member of the Royal Geographical Society and equerry to the future Edward VII. He was also a raging alcoholic, who drank his way through the family fortune, a series of women and, ultimately, his own life at the age of 45.

Fawcett the younger could not have been more different. Abstemious of alcohol and nervous around women, he was dedicated to whatever he turned his hand to. Surviving photos, mostly from his later years, show a long-necked, pipe-smoking man in a battered jacket and shapeless hat, with fiercely determined eyes peering out from some impressive facial hair. Without a family fortune to rely on, Fawcett junior trained as a surveyor in the Royal Artillery, serving for several years in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and working his way up to the rank of Major. During this time, Fawcett's brother Edward became involved in the Spiritualist movement and in Buddhism, helping Madame Blavatsky to write The Secret Doctrine and taking the Buddhist vows known as the Pansil. It is likely that PHF too became a Buddhist at this time.

It was also in Ceylon that he first came across both the loves of his life.

Nina Agnes Patterson was a guest at a ball held in honour of Archduke Franz Ferdinand when she met Fawcett, then a lieutenant. They fell in love immediately, and became engaged. Fawcett's mother, however, always a controlling (not to say abusive) figure, disapproved of the match and told Fawcett that Nina had been unfaithful to him. In a rage, he broke off the engagement and Nina returned to England to avoid the scandal. While there, Nina met another man, a Captain Prichard. Two years later they were married, only for Prichard to collapse within months from an embolism. With his dying words, he urged Nina to return to Fawcett; she found that her former fiancé had discovered his mothers' deception and was now willing to take her back.

In the meantime, Fawcett had come into possession of a treasure-map. Passing through a series of hands before it reached him, the scrap of parchment bore instructions in Sinhalese on reaching a cave called Galla-pita-Galla, where a great treasure was to be found. Unable to resist either the lure of the treasure or the thrill of the unknown, Fawcett set out single-handed into the forested interior of the island on his first amateur archaeological trip.

Naturally, Fawcett did not make his fortune on this trip - it is almost certain the map was a fake - but he did discover something within himself that would change his life just as radically. Fawcett was born to explore.

The Early Expeditions

Fawcett underwent a formal training programme at the Royal Geographical Society in London, learning about navigation, survival and anthropology, among other things. He impressed his supervisors, and was promptly dispatched to Morocco to spy on the court of the Sultan.

His next mission was to South America in 1906 to survey the border between Brazil and Bolivia.

Ever since the Spanish and Portuguese empires had divided South America up between them, the bulk of the interior of the continent had been assigned to Brazilian administration. Since few Europeans had ever penetrated into the 'Green Hell' of the Amazon, and none far from the main rivers, this had been a fairly academic matter. But now things had changed. The Rubber Boom had made the Amazon as desirable a territory as any Arabian oilfield today. Rubber barons - slavers in all but name - were earning vast sums while their workers died rapidly and in appalling conditions. Nor were the workers the only ones to suffer; the Peruvian Amazon Company alone killed over 30,000 native Indians. Where such riches were to be had, wars were quick to follow, and the borders of several nations rapidly became flashpoints for bloody - and unprofitable - wars. Settling whose bit of jungle was whose was now urgent and imperative.

It took Fawcett, along with his second-in-command Arthur Chivers and 20 native bearers, 18 months to map their allotted section of the border. Already, he was showing some of the traits that would mark him out as the greatest explorer of the region. He seemed immune to the deadly and debilitating diseases that decimated those around him. Being so resilient himself, he was utterly intolerant of any weakness in others, reacting to it as though it were a deliberate betrayal. He refused to engage violently with the local tribes, striding forth to meet them peacefully even - on more than one occasion - into the face of a fusillade of six-foot, poison-tipped arrows that had killed one of his colleagues. And he was also given to tall tales, claiming to have seen a 60-foot anaconda (more than twice the length of any specimen found before or since) and a species of dog with two noses1.

By the time of his second Amazon expedition, it was clear that Fawcett had found his calling. He took a detour to map the Rio Verde simply because it had not been done before - not a decision most people would make casually while making average progress of half a mile per day and carrying a 30-kilo pack in the sweltering Amazon heat. Five of his nine-man expedition starved to death.

By 1911 and his fourth expedition, he had teamed up with two men who he felt could live up to his demanding physical standards, Henry Costin and Henry Manly. He believed he had found a third in polar explorer James Murray, but this was to prove a mistake. Murray struggled to cope in the humid heat of the jungle, and Fawcett showed not the least compassion for his weakness. As Murray found the skin on his heels peeling away and maggots infesting his knee, he begged Fawcett to allow him to rest. Instead, Fawcett called the team together to discuss whether they should abandon Murray to save the rest of the expedition. In the end, Fawcett did something he had never done before and would never do again; he turned back. Murray was dumped unceremoniously on a donkey at the nearest settlement and left to ride back to civilisation if he could make it. Costin nearly lost his face - and did temporarily lose his sanity - to a parasitic infection called espundia. Fawcett, shrugging off the same burrowing worms that nearly cost Murray his leg, strode on through the rainforest without any apparent discomfort. Murray, by contrast, was so ill that he did not arrive back in La Paz until months after Fawcett, having spent the intervening time recuperating at a remote outpost.

Interlude: The Great War

By now, Fawcett was widely recognised as the greatest explorer operating in the Amazon region. Unlike any of his rivals, he was prepared to make arduous treks overland through the forest, rather than sticking to the easily-navigable but restrictive rivers.

Not even South America escaped the First World War, though, and Fawcett dutifully volunteered for military service. He rose in rank from Major to Lieutenant Colonel and - aside from being gassed once and nearly mistakenly arresting Winston Churchill as a spy on another occasion - survived the war without a scratch. To add to his prestige, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order by the military and a gold medal - the Founder's Medal - by the Royal Geographical Society.

This apparent meteoric rise did not translate well into increased success after the war. The RGS was struggling for funds, and could not finance any further expeditions by Fawcett. The Rubber Boom was over, and attempts to raise funding in South America were further hampered by his new rank, which translated as Comandante, a title frequently given to inept but politically important officers. (As a consequence, Fawcett lobbied for but was denied the rank of full Colonel; he nevertheless took to calling himself Colonel Fawcett, and that is how he is remembered.) His loyal and trusted lieutenants were gone: Manley to a heart attack and Costin to a woman.

Like many in the aftermath of the global bloodbath of the Great War, Fawcett turned to spiritualism and the works of Madame Blavatsky. He became convinced he had reconciled with his long-deceased mother. He also found supernatural support for another theory that had been growing in his mind for a while: the Lost City of Z.


It was the received wisdom that the Amazon was not only thinly inhabited, it was virtually uninhabitable. Those tribes that were known were sparse. What food there was was rarely found at ground level but in the inaccessible canopy. Disease and predators were a constant threat. Agriculture was not only unknown, it was impractical in the infertile soil. There was no stone or metal. In other words, it was simply not possible for an advanced civilisation to survive, much less arise, in such a place.

It was in the face of this evidence that Fawcett began to persuade himself that exactly that had happened. A fragmentary, anonymous document, known as Manuscript 512, written by an early Portuguese explorer, spoke of a magnificent inland city. Fawcett's overland treks convinced him that the native tribes had been denuded by contact with Europeans along the rivers, but that they had once been far more numerous. His first-hand experience of their survival techniques told him that food sources might be well hidden, but they were not altogether absent even in the deepest jungle. And finally, he knew that wherever the ground rose up and became dark, pottery was so thickly scattered that almost any handful of earth would contain some shards - and those raised areas were often linked by causeways. Even in Fawcett's day, tribes such as the Maxubis could routinely build huts of thatch 70 feet tall and lived in villages with a population of thousands. Could it be, he wondered, that there really had been a great Amazonian civilisation before Columbus came to the Americas?

Although Fawcett had great admiration for the Amazonian natives and repeatedly refused to use force against them, even when attacked himself, he was not immune to the endemic racism of his time. He did not believe that the native Indians themselves had created this great city; no doubt some lost European tribe, the Phoenicians or the Lost Tribes of Israel, had built the city before intermarrying with the Indians.

Always given to secrecy and cryptic notes, Fawcett called this city simply Z. It was, he theorised, located in the Mato Grosso region of the Brazilian Amazon, between the Upper Xingu and Tapajó rivers.

As time passed, his theories were increasingly supported by evidence from the spirit world. By 1921, this idea was firmly planted in his mind, and he was writing articles for the esoteric press about it. His home life had become peripatetic, moving from Sussex to Jamaica to Los Angeles, with his family in tow, mostly to reduce living costs. Finally, with no way of raising funds for a proper expedition, he sold half of his military pension to buy equipment and walked into the jungle alone. Still he found nothing, and by 1923 even the £3 annual membership of the RGS was a struggle.

To make matters worse, as Fawcett stood still many of his rivals pushed forward with renewed vigour. In particular, Dr Alexander Hamilton Rice was revolutionising Amazon exploration. Massively wealthy, and another winner of an RGS Gold Medal (the Patron's Medal, just as prestigious as Fawcett's), he was an associate of Hiram Bingham, discoverer of Machu Picchu. He was also independently wealthy, so rich that the post-war slump in funding meant nothing to him. He was taking close to a hundred people into the Amazon with him at a time, and with two-way radios - each costing several times more than Fawcett could raise for an entire expedition - Rice was in constant contact with civilisation2. Film cameras gave him a permanent record of his finds. He could afford to take a group of specialists with him, rather than relying on his own dilettante knowledge and a few portable textbooks. And he had one more advantage too - air superiority. By bringing a boat-plane along, Rice could map in hours what might take Fawcett months. And Rice, like Fawcett, was looking for Z.

As yet, Fawcett thought that Rice was searching too far north, and doubted that proper exploration could be done from the air. But time was running out, and it was starting to look as though Fawcett would be scooped to the crowning triumph of his career.

The Final Expedition

With the aid of a George Lynch, Fawcett was finally able to raise a few thousand dollars from the United States. Once the sensation-hungry North American Newspaper Association was on board, the American Geographical Society and the Museum of the American Indian followed suit. With the dominoes falling, even the Royal Geographical Society finally coughed up a little cash - it was barely enough, but Fawcett could stretch it to cover what he needed. Just as everything looked set, Fawcett arrived in South America to find that Lynch had blown over a thousand dollars on booze and whores. The expedition hung in the balance, but at the last minute Rockefeller stepped in to nearly double Fawcett's coffers at a stroke. Fawcett's ninth Amazon expedition was on.

Unable to pay salaries, Fawcett was accompanied by just two others, neither of whom had been into the rainforest before. The first was Fawcett's eldest son, Jack Fawcett. Like his father, he was an abstemious and intense young man, with aspirations of becoming a movie star. By contrast, Raleigh Rimell, Jack's childhood best friend, was a joker with an eye for the ladies, and who nearly got engaged on the eve of their departure.

The little expedition was accompanied by a group of bearers as far as the last settlement - itself no mean journey. With the press now picking up a sizeable chunk of the tab for his meanderings, Fawcett could no longer simply record his findings in diaries with a view to publishing a report for the RGS on his return. He was now required to send back Indian runners with messages as often as possible. It is from these messages that we know that Jack was just as resilient as his father, but Raleigh fell out with both of them and was regarded as a liability. From this final settlement, Baikirí Camp, the trio headed further into the jungle, accompanied by guides as far as Dead Horse Camp, where Fawcett had been forced to shoot his mount on the previous expedition.

It was at Dead Horse Camp that the last of Fawcett's bearers would turn back, so this was his last chance to communicate before setting off with just his two companions. In words that would tantalise those who followed him, he gave the coordinates of Dead Horse Camp and told his wife that 'you need have no fear of failure'.

Neither he nor his two companions was ever seen again.

The Fawcett Freaks

It was always expected that Fawcett would spend a long time incommunicado in the jungle. But after two years had passed, even Nina was starting to worry. Rumours began to circulate - Fawcett had been seen by the French engineer Roger Courteville and was living as a hermit. A mysterious Bernardino claimed to have guided Fawcett to the Nahukuá tribe, who murdered him. Fawcett was alive and being held captive by 'a tribe' over 500 miles from where he was last seen.

None of these rumours came to anything, and Nina in particular refused to believe that her invulnerable husband was dead - although he would now be 60.

As time passed, both Fawcett and the City of Z began to exert a strange fascination on travellers to the region. The first attempt at a rescue mission was mounted by George Miller Dyott of the RGS. He turned up an inscribed scrap of metal and a chest in the possession of the Nahukuá Indians, and suspicion fell on their chief Aloique. Aloique tried to blame his neighbours the Suya. Tribes converged on the area and eventually Dyott fled, fearing for his life.

On his return to civilisation, however, his story came under fire. He claimed to have followed marks on trees to track Fawcett's route - although the secretive Colonel never left such marks. His main guide, Bernardino, claimed to have been Fawcett's guide, yet Fawcett's dispatches never mentioned him. And there was nothing to indicate that the trinkets were from Fawcett's final mission.

In the early 1930s, a small-time movie star called Albert de Winton made two expeditions in search of Fawcett, only to be found naked and raving in a canoe by the Kamayurá tribe, who promptly staved his head in.

As the death toll mounted, so too did the mystery. Fawcett had left explicit instructions that no rescue attempt was to be made - 'If with all my experience we can't make it, there's not much hope for others' - yet at times it seemed that the Amazon was awash with rescuers. Ian Fleming's brother Peter had a go, but ended up with nothing to show for his efforts. Nina Fawcett even asked Rice to mount an expedition, only to hear that he had retired from exploring.

Over a hundred lives have been lost in the Amazon in search of Fawcett. The rewards have been negligible by most standards, yet just enough to keep people coming back; a trunk, a name-tag, a compass and a ring inscribed with the Fawcett family motto, Nec Aspera Terrent3 - even a dog that wandered out of the jungle and was said to be Fawcett's.

As the years went by, and people (but never Nina) started to accept that Fawcett was dead, the stories became wilder and began to focus more on the younger members of the expedition. In 1943, Edmar Morel produced a white Indian boy called Dulipé who he claimed was the son of Jack Fawcett. Toured for years as a carnival sideshow exhibit - 'The White God of the Xingu' - Dulipé became another victim of Fawcettmania, dying in a gutter of alcohol poisoning. An autopsy confirmed what many suspected - he was an albino, and not of mixed-race parentage.

In 1951, a Brazilian environmentalist and native rights activist called Orlando Villas Boas claimed to have found Fawcett's bones. In fact this was probably a deliberate deception on Boas' part to discourage further intrusion by whites into the diminishing tribal territories. The bones actually belonged to a tall Indian man called Mugika of the Kalapalo tribe. Even a cursory examination showed that the bones were too small to be Fawcett and lacked his dentures, but by the time this was firmly established Nina Fawcett had died.

There was one final member of the Fawcett family to venture into the Green Hell. Brian Fawcett, PHF's younger son, snubbed on the fateful expedition because of his age, chartered a plane to drop leaflets into the jungle in the hopes that his brother might still be alive and a captive of a tribe. With his publication of Exploration Fawcett, an edited set of his father's journals, the family's active involvement in the saga came to a close. When going through his father's papers to research the book, Brian found, carefully preserved, the Galla-pita-Galla treasure map that had been PHF's original inspiration over half a century previously.

By the 1960s, both Z and Fawcett had become part of the mystical counter-culture. Udo Lucknor, the self-appointed 'High Priest of the Roncador' started a cult called the Magical Nucleus based around Z, teaching that Z was an entirely spiritual location and that Fawcett had reached it by achieving enlightenment through his arduous quest. The cult fell apart with the failure of Lucknor's prophecy that the world would end in 1982.

As late as 1996, Brazilian James Lynch and his son, James Lynch Jr, were captured by hostile tribes while hunting for Fawcett. And more recently still, American reporter David Grann ventured into the Amazon, producing an article for The New Yorker and a book, both called The Lost City of Z. Part of his thesis was that Fawcett deliberately falsified the coordinates of Dead Horse Camp and his route plan, and that previous expeditions had therefore been looking in the wrong place.

The Final Legacy

Fawcett left his mark on literature as well as geography. Among works inspired by him are Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, an encounter in a Tintin book (The Broken Ear), The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (a personal friend of Fawcett's and a fellow Spiritualist) and the Crosby and Hope movie Road to Zanzibar. He was at least part of the inspiration for Indiana Jones, and will be played by Brad Pitt in the forthcoming Lost City of Z.

As the hype has died down, serious archaeologists have provided a fitting finale to the affair. Michael Heckenberger has shown that the causeways Fawcett thought he had found do indeed exist. Ditches and traces of palisades surround mounds a mile across containing pottery that can be carbon-dated to between 800 and 1600 AD. Towns and villages appear to have been laid out in grids based on the compass points throughout the Amazon, and soil fertility is improved by mixing ashes into the earth. There is no single great city, but rather evidence that the whole region was once civilised - and by natives, not mysterious European émigrés.

The magnificent city that Fawcett was searching for may have been a phantom - David Grann maintains that the author of Manuscript 512 probably saw nothing but weathered rocks - but the civilisation he believed in was real. South American history may never be the same again.

1 It has since been established that Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hounds do, in fact, exist, so it's just possible he was telling the truth about the snake too.
2 Albeit he often got better reception in Britain than in Brazil.
3 'Difficulties be Damned'.

A new book about Colonel percy Fawcett called AMAZON ADVENTURE