Percy Fawcett

The mystery of the lost explorer

The history of explorers is full of lone rangers; brave men with no significant team, powerful affiliations or equipments. Livingstone explored large areas of Africa by himself. By the end of Victorian Era, explorations became huge expeditions held by universities or powerful societies. Fawcett was one of these lone rangers who succeeded lots of things with a few men and limited resources.

It was the times that the world still has some regions waiting to be explored, and still there was a chance that one single man could achieve incredible things. But it's obvious that Fawcett was the last man trying it. And he died (most probably) trying it.

He had an idea that the Amazon Jungle was hiding an ancient lost city he called "Z", in which the ancient tribes of the Amazon had built a civilized life. He spent most of his life pursuing this dream.

Percy Fawcett

In his last attempt to find the Lost City of Z, he organized an expedition to Xingu region of Brazil with his son Brian and his son's friend. They all disappeared in May 1925 and no one has seen them since. Their mysterious disappearance led to a worldwide hysteria and lots of expeditions are set to find the lost explorers. Besides being all futile, many of the expeditions vanished mysteriously in the same region. So the legend grew by time.

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 ten years he had wandered the forests and death-filled rivers in search of a fabled lost city. Finally, convinced that he had discovered the location, he set out for the last time with two companions, one of whom was his eldest son, to destination ''Z,''never to be heard from again.

The thrilling and mysterious account of Fawcett's ten years of travels in deadly jungles and forests in search of a secret city was compiled by his younger son from manuscripts, letters, and logbooks. What happened to him after remains a mystery.

Verde Expedition

The "Verde Expedition"

Among Fawcett's six expeditions, the Verde Expedition is especially important; as it highlights all his exploration style and character.

Rio Verde in fact is a relatively small tribute of Rio Guaporé, which is also a tributary of the river Madeira that is one of the main tributaries of Amazon River. As you look on the map, exploring this small tributary may seem as an insignificant contribution, but in fact it's not. At the beginning of the 20th century the region was completely unknown. Though may seem small compared to the large Amazon basin, even this small tribute covers an area nearly that of Belgium.

In 1908, Fawcett was already in payroll for boundary delineation for Bolivian and Brazilian governments and he was doing his job much more successfully than expected. He was ahead of the schedule and to get out of boredom, he decided to explore the source of Rio Verde.

The Verde Expedition Route

The experiences of Fawcett and his team were very similar to those of Roosevelt's Rio da Dúvida (River of Doubt) expedition. The main obstacle was not the savage tribes or wild animals; just starvation. It looks impossible to starve in a forest supposedly full of game animals, plants or fish. In fact the forest is full of these resources, but for an untrained outsider, these resources were impossible to spot at.

The team reached the source of Rio Verde, made necessary measurements, took a couple of photographs there (see the photo on left) and started their way to the camp point of the Brazilian expedition. On their return path, they suffered the extreme points of starvation and finally they miraculously survived by shooting a deer. After days of suffering they succeeded to reach to a black settlement (Quilombo) where they recovered from starvation, but five of the Brazilian workers were dead because of the diseases caused by starvation.

In the later expeditions, Fawcett learned how to hunt and forage from indians. Indians used some kind of whistle to attract deer and other animals; and they used some kind of white herbal extract to paralyze the fish in the river. And also, indians knew where to look for Brazilian Nuts and other forest fruits.

It was the book of David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. David Grann introduces Percy Fawcett with the following biography:

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.

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Professor Challenger of Doyle's The Lost World

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Percy Fawcett were good friends and they have the quiet similar world views such including the world of occult.

Fawcett told stories about his incredible exploitations in the Amazon Jungle, and Conan Doyle used lots of them in his novels. The most significant of them is the famous "Table Top Mountain" in his novel, The Lost World.

Conan Doyle said that the Professor Challenger character was loosely based on Percy Fawcett. Just like Fawcett, Professor Challenger is ambitious, furious, single-minded, extremely workaholic and intolerant.


[1] Wikipedia
[2] David Grann. “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.”
[3] Col. Percy Fawcett, "Exploration Fawcett"


Percy Fawcett is the inspiration for many features of this game.
But above all, Lost City of Z enterprise is based on finding the lost city while collecting rubber in the jungle.
Here are some screenshots from the Lost City of Z enterprise. For more information about this enterprise click here.