Fawcett had become captivated by the idea of a lost civilization hidden deep within the rainforest. This fascination was nothing new. Some called this city ‘El Dorado’, Fawcett dubbed it ‘Z’.
Despite its powerful rivers, dense canopy, violent tribes and a plethora of deadly animals, men were still drawn to it. Those who ventured into the Amazon knew full and well what they were getting into it. Death was a likely possibility. Nonetheless explorers, scientists, archeologists and more simply could not resist the temptation to venture there.
Fawcett was no exception.
This journey was highly publicized, and had grasped the attention of the UK and USA. 1925 was nearing the end of the age of exploration, especially Victorian explorers, so all the appreciation towards this pursuit was focused on the search for Z.
Fawcett had a hard time trusting others, as well as finding other explorers who could live up to his rigorous standards. So, who better to trust than his own son Jack? One of Jack’s friend also joined the expedition.
He warned the boys what they would be facing: Hostile indigenous tribes, malaria, delirium, exhaustion, hunger, insects that never let up, jaguars, and of course death. The fact that Fawcett hadn’t yet perished was a feat in itself.
The men left with much Pomp & Circumstance. They were trumpeted as heroes, and the world waited with angst hoping that the legendary El Dorado would be discovered.
Months later they were never seen or heard from again.
Solving the Mystery(s)
The Lost City of Z by David Grann presents two mysteries that the author attempts to solve:
- What happened to Fawcett and his expedition?
- Was there a lost city of ‘Z’? If so, where was it? What was it? Who lived there? Etc.
Although the crew seemed to drop off the face of the Earth, there was a actually quite a bit of information to guide Grann.
During their expedition, Fawcett employed Indian runners to transmit messages along their path, periodically keeping in contact with the outside world. Though these letters came to a halt once they went missing, it still lends clues to where they left off.
Also, since the expedition was in 1925, it meant that there were still a few people living in the Amazon who actually remembered the Colonel and his crew, or at least claimed to.
Grann puts in a ton of effort into solving these mysteries. Not only does he do extensive research on his own, but he ventures to the Amazon himself to track down Fawcett and ‘Z.’.
A Couple Drawbacks
Without giving the details away, I found the ‘discoveries’ to be a bit lackluster. But, being a work of non-fiction the author can only use the facts at hand.
I also found the author to be a bit of a… well, pansy. And this is based on the descriptions of himself, which are usually self-deprecating. Definitely not a huge deal, I just found the juxtaposition of Fawcett, the brave, bold, Victorian explorer with the presumably pudgy, pale mangina Grann to be embarrassing on the author’s part.
The River of Doubt (See review here) is a book about Teddy Roosevelt’s journey into the Amazon. It is quite comparable to Fawcett’s journey, and the two books serve as excellent guides as the Amazon.
It’s hard to choose one over the other.
The River of Doubt serves doubly as a biography of Roosevelt. Yet Fawcett’s adventure seemed more exhilarating.
The Lost City of Z is definitely an enjoyable tale for those who love exploration and adventure. Just don’t get to carried away after reading it!
Click here to buy The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann on Amazon.