May 29, 2017, marks the 92nd year of Colonel Percy Fawcett‘s disappearance. Fawcett was one of Britain’s most recognized explorers. His passion for exploring led him to a lifelong quest to find the Lost City of Z, an ancient civilization that is supposedly hidden in the Amazon.
Together with his eldest son, Jack; Jack’s longtime friend Raleigh Rimell; and a group of professional travel companions, Fawcett began an expedition to find Z. They departed from the city of Cuiabá on April 29, 1925, and disappeared without a trace on May 29, 1925. Centuries later, people are still fascinated with Fawcett’s story, especially with a critically acclaimed film about his final expedition being released.
So what happened to Colonel Fawcett? Did he finally find the Lost City of Z? Were he and his son brutally murdered by tribesmen, or were they consumed by the harsh elements of the Amazon?
Colonel Percy Fawcett’s Final Expedition to the Lost City of Z
It is a riddle that has remained unanswered for ages. Hundreds of explorers and writers have sought out to discover the truth behind Col. Percy Fawcett’s journey to the Lost City of Z, but none of them have ever come close to discovering it. In 1996, a group placed their lives in danger by traveling to the Mato Grosso region to search for Fawcett or even his son Jack. The trip could have ended just as tragic as the group was held hostage by Kalapalo tribesmen. Luckily, their lives were spared, and the group was released after three harrowing days. From then on, no one dared to go on another trip in fear of meeting a similar fate in the large speck of land aptly nicknamed The Green Hell.
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Five years before he officially began his search for the Lost City of Z, Fawcett came across a document in the National Library of Rio De Janeiro called Manuscript 512. The manuscript was believed to be written by a group of unnamed bandeirantes, a name given to explorers of the colonial period. The manuscript detailed about the discovery of an ancient city in 1753.
The city was said to have stood beyond a crystal mountain. It was completely unoccupied and ruined on several areas. There’s only one possible way to enter the city, and that’s through a single ornamented path that ended with three arches, the middle one stood at the center while two smaller arches could be seen at the sides. Written on them were a number of indecipherable inscriptions.
As the bandeirantes pressed on, they discovered that the city was draped in silver and gold. They journeyed forward only to discover that they weren’t alone. On the bank of the great bay, they found a canoe filled with white people dressed like Europeans. When they heard a gunshot, they quickly escaped and were never seen again.
The disappearance of Percy Fawcett
Though most archaeologists dismissed the idea of a large city hiding in the Amazon, Fawcett was convinced of its existence. He was a man who had years of traveling experience under his belt, so it was strange for him to just disappear without a trace.
Fawcett’s last known location was in Dead Horse Camp, the same spot where he was forced to shoot his horse five years back. The group stayed in the area for a total of five months. His final letter was dated on May 29, 1925, and was addressed to his wife, Nina. The letter was unusually optimistic, with Fawcett proclaiming how Jack was getting healthier each day. He ended the message with the words “You need have no fear of any failure.”
Fawcett and his company reached the edge of the unexplored jungle, standing in places where no westerner had ever set foot in. He had previously told his investors that he planned to explore for a year, so when two years passed and neither Fawcett nor his company was to be found, people began to worry. Fawcett himself had told everyone that if he ever disappeared, no rescue party should be sent. But despite his early warning, several search and rescue missions would be ordered resulting in a total of 100 fatalities.
One report came from the Kalapolo Indians who stated that the three remaining explorers, Fawcett, Jack, and Rimell, headed east of the jungle. For five straight days, they observed that the group made camp fires until one night it seemingly stopped. The Kalapolo presumed that it was a violent tribe that had killed them. Theorists have suggested that Fawcett could have gotten into a fight with the village chief, which landed him in hot water. A second theory was that the group had died from malaria or other natural causes.
However, conflicting reports came from sources stated that Fawcett was skilled in maintaining positive relationships with indigenous people, so it was unlikely for him to get into such trouble. So a rumor surfaced that Fawcett abandoned the dream of finding the Lost City of Z and decided to live as a chieftain to a cannibalistic group. After all, he was a man who had developed a deep belief in the occult.
The baffling case of Percy Fawcett almost came to a close in 1952, when a group of Kalapalo Indians reported that three explorers were killed for speaking ill to the villagers. The descriptions matched that of Fawcett and the two young men, so Brazilian explorer Orlando Villas Boas visited the area to find out the truth. There, he was presented with human bones as well as some personal objects such as knives and buttons. But the remains were never confirmed to belong to Fawcett as his family refused to provide any DNA samples. Today, the bones are currently under the care of the Forensic Medicine Institute of the University of Sao Paulo.
While the truth behind Fawcett’s disappearance may never be known, the city he longed for may just not be a total fantasy. In the book by David Grann entitled The Lost City of Z, archaeologists have come to believe that a real bustling city lies within the Amazon. Future excavations in the state of Mato Grosso have revealed evidence of ruined cities, road networks, and large spaces that could hold thousands of inhabitants.