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The Mysterious Disappearance of Explorer Percy Fawcett

Updated on September 15, 2014

Percy Fawcett

The disappearance of explorer and archaeologist Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett has long been shrouded in mystery. In 1925, the British explorer set out with his son and his son's friend for the Brazilian jungle in search of the ancient Inca city of 'Z'. Fawcett's party was headed into unexplored territory when the three men simply vanished. Percy Fawcett and his globetrotting explorations are said to have been an inspiration for Indiana Jones, the fictional archaeologist of movie fame.

Public domain photo courtesy USA.gov/trade.gov

Colonel Quote

"The answer to the enigma of Ancient South America - and perhaps that of the entire prehistoric world - will be found when the old South American cities are located and opened up to scientific research. These cities exist, and I will prove that they exist." - Percy Fawcett

Quote via peruviantimes.com

Early Expositions - Public Domain Photo

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett
Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett

Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 1906, the 39-year-old Fawcett was sent on his first expedition to South America to map a jungle area at the border of Brazil and Bolivia The area was unforgiving. European rubber plantations would illegally enslave entire jungle villages and the cannibal natives would attack anything that entered their land. Fawcett broke tradition by treating the natives with respect, providing them with gifts whenever he entered their land, and listened to their stories intently.

One of the native's stories included a lost golden city located within a 10-mile-valley within the area jungles where odd lights frightened the locals. Fawcett began referring to the city as "Z" and via letters with other occultists, including H. Rider Haggard, the Colonel decided that natives were describing an Atlantis outpost. Haggard gave Fawcett a small statue with mysterious inscriptions that was claimed to have been found in a Brazilian lost city in 1913. Eventually, Fawcett started feel that the statue enabled him to converse with a female spirit called a "Sith" that was begging him to find "Z".

Fawcett Film

With facial hair sprouting for the part, Brad Pitt had signed on to portray Colonel Percy Fawcett in The Lost City of Z, film. It now appears, however, that the project is currently on hold.

Creative Commons photo courtesy Wikimedia/Chrisa Hickey

Fawcett Movie Question

Would you be interested in seeing a movie entitled The Lost City of Z ?

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Percy Fawcett Exposition Vid

David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, narrates this brief overview of the doomed exposition.

"The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon" by David Grann

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

Largely about Percy Fawcett, this book showcases how David Grann's vigorous research mirrors Fawcett's obsession with uncovering the mysteries of the jungle. By retelling the great story of Fawcett with his own investigations in South America and Britain, Grann provides an in-depth, captivating character study that has the relentless energy of a classic adventure tale.

 

Eighth and Final Expedition

In 1925, with backing from a London group of financiers called "The Glove," Fawcett returned to Brazil for an exploratory expedition. He had studied old legends and historical documents and was completely convinced that the lost city existed in the region's jungles. The Colonel left behind instructions stating that if the expedition did not return, no rescue expedition should be sent so that any potential rescuers would be safe

A man with years of experience traveling with all the handpicked necessities, things such as canned foods, powdered milk, guns, flares and mapping equipment. Also personally selected were his travel companions, both chosen for their heath, ability, and loyalty to each other; his oldest son Jack Fawcett and Jack's long time friend Raleigh Rimell. Fawcett chose only two partners, so they could travel lighter and so they would go more unnoticed with the tribes of the jungle; some being hostile towards explorers. And many tribes at the time still never seen a white man.

The last indication that Fawcett was still alive, was on May 29, 1925, when Percy telegraphed his wife that he was about to journey into unexplored territory with only Jack and Jack's friend Raleigh. The group were reported to be crossing a small tributary of the Amazon River. Nothing more was ever heard from the trio.

Most presumed that local Indians had killed the team, several tribes being blamed at the time-the Kalapalos, who last saw them, or the Arumás, Suyás, or Xavantes tribes whose general territory they were entering. Both of the younger men were reportedly ill when last seen, and there is no proof they were murdered. It is plausible that they died of natural causes in the Brazilian jungle.

In 1927, an inscribed nameplate of Percy Fawcett was found with one of the local Indian tribes. In the summer of 1933, a compass that belonged to Fawcett was discovered in an area inhabited by the Indians of Mato Grosso.

An estimated one hundred would-be-rescuers have died in more than 13 expeditions sent to uncover Fawcett's fate.

So What Happened to Percy Fawcett?

Explanations about Fawcett's fate have essentially been whittled down to four possibilities. Percy and his cohorts were most likely either: killed and eaten by wildlife, slain by hostile tribes, were assimilated into one of the tribes, or simply starved or fell victim to illness. Sightings of blue eyed children became commonplace and many natives claimed to have seen him as late as the mid-1930s. Some remains were found in the jungle along with stories from the tribes that claimed to have killed Fawcett, but none ever turned out to be him.

We probably will never know what happened to Colonel Percy or if "Z" ever really existed. Perhaps the best explanation of his fate is a mix of reasons. He went into the jungle motivated by native myths that surrounded a dead civilization, was brainwashed by his own occult beliefs about it having been of Atlantis origin, and ended up dead somewhere during his quest. The harsh Amazon jungle, which still hides many people that haven't been contacted yet, made sure that his body was never found. Or, maybe somewhere within the Amazon jungles, he formed his own tribe in a lost remote city.

Percy Poll

What do you think happened to Fawcett and his men?

See results

Opinions on this Hub? - Feel free to comment here. Thanks for visiting!

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    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

      What a mystery. Who really knows what happened to this man, his son, and his son's friend. I loved my visit to this lens.

    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 4 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      I have read a book about his different journey to search this City z, la ciudad del oro. I really think that is does exist somewhere out there... As they found just recently an other great maya place in Mexico, I am sure someday they will find that too...

      Who knows maybe someone from here will find that. It think is amazing that there are still so many things to explorer out there....

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Great info!

    • profile image

      Shadrosky 5 years ago

      Didn't know anything about this guy until now....thanks!

    • Jadelynx-HP profile image

      Tracey Boyer 5 years ago from Michigan

      Interesting lens, I love a good mystery. :)

    • chrisqw profile image

      chrisqw 6 years ago

      Very interesting. Thank you!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      Interesting & intriguing story. The disappearance of the trio is probably not mysterious. People just have so many theories and they cannot choose which one is the truth.

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 6 years ago

      This lens is featured at https://hubpages.com/community/purple-star-awards- on page 2. If you have others you would like to see listed, please let me know. Thanks and congratulations!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      OMG, I sincerely dig mysteries and this one has pulled me in ... especially with Brad Pitt?

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 6 years ago from USA

      Fantastic. Educational, and informative. Wonderful bit of history ties into the future with its movie in the making.

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      Not just a great subject for a lens, but also great looking

    • LotusMalas profile image

      LotusMalas 7 years ago

      I love real-life mysteries like this! I had never heard of him before, but now I'm looking forward to the movie!

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      Fascinating! You've got some amazing lenses on great subjects, and I, too, hadn't heard of this one.

      Interesting how just a few clues in your writing have pushed the poll towards one result and away from "consumed by critters," which is likely enough as well. (I picked disease/starvation based on that one remark, but there really is no way to know.)

      Also amazing is how many people went looking, and died. A very human irony: Fawcett was famous enough to get dozens of expeditions looking for him, but I doubt many went looking for them because they weren't as well-known. Strange how we choose our heroes and celebrities.

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 7 years ago

      Very interesting, I had never heard of him before.

      Nice work,

      Robin :)

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Fascinating stuff. I think he drowned in a deep dark pool. Blessed :-)

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      Fascinating! Thanks for sharing - I'd not heard of Fawcett before.

      I think they found something amazing and didn't want to share! It's interesting about the blue-eyed children though. I wonder if the Sith was a trickster!

      Congratulations on your purple star!