I recently finished David Grann’s The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession In the Amazon. And, boy, he is not kidding. While the story of Fawcett, as a person and explorer, is very interesting, some of the most amazing parts of the book come from Grann telling about all the other explorers who risked life and limb to try and find Fawcett. Percy Fawcett was an explorer and amateur anthropologist of the old-school…he was new-school enough to actually get out into the world and see things for himself, but he was still a bit constrained by the conventions of his time. One convention that he bucked, though, was the belief that the Amazon was such a forlorn and hard-scrabble environment that it could never have supported large groups of people, no complex civilization. Whether Percy actually glimpsed some remnant, or simply believed, he thought that there had been advanced culture in the Amazon, and spent a great deal of his life trying to find evidence of his lost city ‘Z’. On his eighth trip into the jungle, he and his son disappeared.
Our intrepid author is just one of many who have caught the Fawcett bug, following his path into the jungle and hoping to find traces of Fawcett and/or the civilization that might have created Z. I won’t spoil it by saying what they do or don’t discover, but I will say that their stories illustrate the hold that the past and its mysteries can have on people, and how far some will go to find a tangible relic of history.