Percy Fawcett

The Last of the Great Explorers

Verde Expedition 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.

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 Last of the Teamless Explorers

The history is 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.

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 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.

Route of the Rio Verde Expedition

from the Fawcett article in Wikipedia German

From the Rio Verde Expedition

Fawcett and his team posing at the source of Rio Verde, exhausted by starvation

The team reached the source of Rio Verde, made necessary measurements, took a couple of photographs there (see the photo above) 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.

Professor Challenger depicted in the novel : 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 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.

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