On April 20, 1925, Colonel Percy Fawcett, his elder son Jack Fawcett and Jack’s lifelong friend, Raleigh Rimmell, departed from Cuiabá, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, to find “Z” – Col. Fawcett’s name for what he believed to be an ancient city lost in the uncharted jungles of Brazil. The search for the mysterious Lost City of Z would be the great explorer’s last expedition. All three men would vanish without a trace.
Eighty-six years later, Secrets of the Dead has mounted a modern day quest with explorer Niall McCann to find the truth behind the disappearance of famed adventurer Col. Percy Fawcett and his party in Lost in the Amazon, premiering nationally Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).
Secrets of The Dead: Lost in the Amazon
For decades, explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett captivated the world. His exploits in the Amazon featuring lost cities and fantastic creatures inspired books and Hollywood movies.
William Lowther: He was the original, he was a swashbuckler. This really was an Indiana Jones figure
He was the hardest explorer of his day. He was able to thrive in these incredibly tough environments simply by determination.
In 1925, at the age of 58 Fawcett headed into the jungle with his son and a friend to find a mysterious lost city called Z. It was one of the biggest news stories of the day, and millions followed reports of their exploits.
Then all three vanished without a trace.
Despite countless rescue missions, Fawcett was never found. Only mystery remains. Was he killed by Indians as most believe? And is there a factual basis for his Lost City?
Now modern day explorer Niall McCann travels to South America armed with new clues: Fawcett’s signet ring, secret map coordinates, and an understanding of the mystical purpose behind Fawcett’s final journey.
Title - Lost in the Amazon
Since Europeans first arrived in the New World, they heard stories of a legendary jungle city: El Dorado, whose king was said to dust himself with gold. In 1542, a Spanish expedition was the first of many to go deep into the Amazon in pursuit of the golden city and its riches. A monk named Gaspar de Carvajal accompanied the explorers and kept a journal.
Author 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus
Carvajal went down the main channel of the Amazon and reported that there were millions of people living there, that there were these successful advanced societies that were perfectly capable of defending themselves, that the Spaniards were scared of...
By the 20th century, El Dorado had been declared a myth: the Amazon was clearly populated by scattered groups of tribal peoples. Carvajals’ account of large populations was dismissed by archaeologists who believed this jungle could not sustain large cities.
As archaeologists have begun to go into this area, they’re digging up more and more evidence that these societies had existed in the way that Carvajal had reported. What happened is that disease came through and wiped them out.
The thirst for global exploration defined the British Victorian age. Coming at the very end of that era, Percy Fawcett was among the last of the great English explorers that included Burton, Livingstone and Shackleton. Each pushing back the veil of the unknown...
Unlike the seekers of El Dorado, Percy Fawcett was no treasure hunter. A war hero, brilliant surveyor and amateur archaeologist, he became fascinated with the seemingly impossible idea that large civilizations must have once existed in the Amazon.
He first stepped foot in South America in 1906. At the age of 39, Fawcett was hand picked by England’s Royal Geographical Society, to solve a political dispute by surveying and establishing the newly formed borders of Bolivia and Brazil.
As a skilled surveyor, he crossed vast distances - facing every imaginable danger: from hostile tribes to deadly diseases.
And he would drive the people that worked for him so that he was able to complete the surveys that would take three or four weeks for another team.
He would do them in three or four days.
Narrator: Crucial to his survival, was Percy’s ability to learn native languages and keep a cool head when encountering even the fiercest Indians.
They were going in canoes up a narrow river when they were suddenly attacked, and arrows began to fly all over the place. These arrows by the way would come at you with enormous force. One of them would pass right through a canoe. Right through the wooden sides of the canoe.
Narrator: Instead of firing a gun, Fawcett began playing music on a small accordion. This ended the attack and the natives were soon his friends, providing him safe passage through their jungle.
Fawcett was very successful in his boundary work and certainly pleased the Bolivians enormously. But those borders have stuck and people who have redone them have said that his work was quite accurate
Narrator: Then in 1911 an important archaeological event rocked the world and spurred Fawcett’s obsession with the search for a lost city in the jungle.
In 1911 Hiram Bingham led by native people finds Machu Picchu and a whole bunch of other Inca sites and takes these pictures that appear subsequently in National Geographic and they just electrify people all over the world. It's the first time that these images of these lost cities have been seen in this way and it inspires people to believe that there are others and to take credence in the idea that there are these lost cities and one of these of course was Percy Fawcett.
Fawcett was certain the Incas had warned numerous tribes to flee the Spanish invaders and hide in the jungle. His proof? Discovery of ancient artifacts buried far inland, and vivid accounts of white Indians and a stone city.
After 1913 Fawcett formulated theories of such a city he called simply Z, pronounced Zed in the British fashion. He refers to it in his journals:
“The central place I call ‘Zed’ our main objective, is in a valley about 10 miles wide and the lost city is on an eminence in the middle of it, approached by a barreled roadway of stone”.
But there would be something special about this city he called Zed - something spiritual...and it would be this strange brew of exploration and belief that brought Percy, son Jack and his friend Raleigh Rimmell to Brazil’s central regions in 1925. Since Fawcett’s disappearance on that expedition, much of the true purpose behind his quest for Z has remained hidden, waiting to be uncovered.
Over the decades hundreds of would be rescuers have sought the truth in this impenetrable jungle. None succeeded...many paid with their lives.
Niall McCann: (on camera)
I can certainly understand Col. Fawcett's motivation for being out here and what it was like to try and travel through these incredibly tough environments.
Narrator: Explorer Niall McCann has crossed the Atlantic in a rowboat, beaten paths through the Amazon and crossed the Earth’s polar regions: now he has the legend of Colonel Fawcett in his sites.
I’ve been able to really appreciate what he was going through, because I’ve not only worked in these environments but I’ve been to the exact places that he’s been to and I’ve seen the exact animals that he was describing...
Niall has come to the Royal Geographical Society in London, where Fawcett was trained, to seek out any clues to his disappearance.
We've been invited down here to the map room of the Royal Geographical Society here in London and I've asked the archivist here to lay out an arrangement of the maps as drawn by Col. Fawcett and the first thing that strikes you here is just the incredible level of detail that he has put into these. We've got remarkable detail in the way the streams have been marked, and the contour lines and in everything. A far cry from when I walk around in the forest with a GPS. This man has done it all on foot with his own sextant.
Percy’s love of the jungle began at an early age. At 19, he was sent by his parents to Sri Lanka, then named Ceylon, to join the British army.
His mother decided that that would be the best course for him and she chose the Royal Artillery for him because she thought the uniform was so sweet. He had been influenced by his mother’s strong attraction to spiritualism and to occult movements which had become very popular in Britain at the time.
Here, Percy’s brother introduced him to the Theosophy movement- created by Madame Blavatsky, a famous 19th century psychic and spiritualist. Her global religious movement influenced leading figures of the day including Gandhi, Thomas Edison and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Blavatsky taught that enlightened Master Priests delivered psychic messages to help mankind; they lived in various hidden cities around the world including Tibet and South America.
Fawcett fell under the movement’s spell, and would never forget the Masters in the hidden cities.
Then in Ceylon he met Nina, the daughter of a magistrate, who in 1901 would become his wife.
And he found that she was as interested in psychic and spiritual things as he was. And they became very good friends and they would go out together searching in the jungle for areas where they thought old civilizations may have buried treasures.
Inspired by what he discovered in Ceylon, Fawcett would pursue a career as an RGS explorer; in the Amazon he began to connect ancient civilizations with Madame Blavatsky’s secret cities.
His first expedition to look for Z in 1921 was a disaster. Crossing the vast Mato Grosso towards the deep jungle, men got sick, oxen drowned and a horse had to be shot.
His final search for Z in 1925, started off well, then deteriorated... culminating in Fawcett’s disappearance. Most believe he was killed deep in the Amazon...far up the Kululene River, by hostile Indians such as the Kalapalo.
But the evidence for this theory is sketchy.
Back at the Royal Geographical Society, Niall discovers letters and artifacts from Nina providing clues to Fawcett’s disappearance. She knew the true coordinates of his last camp based on a code Percy had given her so his actual position was secret from potential rivals.
Also here at the RGS, a wax impression of Fawcett's signet ring, donated by Nina after his disappearance as a way to identify his body if it ever turned up.
Sixty years after Fawcett went missing the ring was found, and sent to his granddaughter Rolette now living in Cardiff, Wales.
Do you recognize this writing at all?
Yes of course I do, it's my grandmother Nina's.
Okay, and is this the family motto?
It is indeed. Yes.
Can you translate that, my Latin's not as good as it used to be.
As far as I know, it means "they fear no obstacles"
They fear no obstacles, fantastic. Now you actually have a copy, well the ring itself here.
I do indeed, yes.
Amazing, can we compare the impression
I think that is pretty much that isn't it?
That seems pretty exact to me. That's it.
That's it yup.
For your family, what is the significance of the ring actually being found?
I think it was some quite significant. I was in Switzerland once and I went to see my sister and she had a very good friend who was a very good medium, so I handed it over to her and she took it and she just dropped it straight away and she said there's a lot of blood involved here. I don't want to touch it anymore. So whatever has happened it's not been good.
...either he was killed or his finger was simply chopped off because he didn't want to give it up, it's quite a possibility
Do you want to have a look at some photographs?
The story of the ring may provide a clue to Percy’s Fate.
So might another possession, part of a Fawcett exhibit in Torquay, England.
One of the artifacts being catalogued is a key part of a mapping instrument.
Right, so this compass was actually the compass used by Col. Fawcett in his Theodilite when he was out on exploration. Now, it was found eight years after he went missing and there's been lots of speculation as to where it actually camerom.
Several of Percy’s expedition diaries were recently given to the Torquay museum. In the 1950’s, surviving son Brian wrote side notes about Percy’s 1921 trip to find the lost city.
What's most interesting for me is these coordinates here for Dead Horse camp. Now Dead Horse camp was where he was supposed to have last been seen in the Bakairi area. He's given one set of coordinates here, which he writes “coordinates given the RGS” and beneath, in a different handwriting, presumed to be Brian Fawcett's handwriting, he's got another set of coordinates. Now, I'm going to be very interested to see, when I investigate both theses areas which was the last place Fawcett was supposed to have been.
The search takes Niall to Rio De Janeiro where Fawcett spent time preparing his two expeditions to find Z.
There, Brazil’s National Library holds a 260-year-old manuscript which includes a treasure map describing a fantastic silver-laden lost city.
A friend sent Fawcett a copy translated by Isabel Burton, wife of famed explorer Sir Richard Burton.
Written by 18th century fortune hunters who claim they discovered a stone jungle city, the document was an important clue for Fawcett ... and for Niall.
Here is the document you wanted.
Fantastic, thank you very much. Okay, there it is document #512.
This is, I presume, presented to the King in 1754. It has suffered so much damage over the years hasn't it?
Yeah, they tried to restore it but some text was lost.
It tells of a stone city with multi storied buildings with wonderful architecture, soaring arches, very cleverly designed, wide streets leading down to a lake on which the adventures saw two white Indians in a canoe, confirming everything Fawcett believed to be right. On the sides of the buildings there was carved letters that seemed to resemble Greek or at least an early European alphabet.
For Fawcett, it all came together -- the stone city, tales of white Indians, ancient relics. Z must exist. And the legend also seemed to match Madame Blavatsky’s hidden cities and psychic priests.
Pale skinned Indians may have existed...but Fawcett thought these could be Blavatsky’s Master Priests delivering important spiritual teachings to the world.
So these are the signs that they found written on the sides of the city on the walls of the city and from a caves that they found near a waterfall three days downstream from the city itself.
Yes, I believe so.
Well Fawcett imagined, a you know Atlantis kind of … a Greek City in the middle of the forest. That's very difficult in most of the Amazon because there really isn't the stone to do that. You can have really impressive cities but they are not going to be that kind of city.
Then what about the city in the manuscript?
Many of the experts now think that it was written by adventurers who were trying to raise money, that there was no city, that they saw no city.
Niall’s come to the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso to pursue the clues leading to Fawcett’s disappearance. Fernando Garcia is a jungle survival expert who will help lead the way.
Fernando, how are you doin
Nice to meet you man.
Niall’s destination is a Bakairi Indian village: the last people known to have seen Fawcett alive. He finds this land transformed by deforestation and farming.
Okay man, we're almost hitting the Bakairi village,
As far as I know, no one has actually been here to speak to them. So no one knows what he was like when he came here, whether they know where he went, where he stayed, where he went afterwards. No one knows that.
Niall seeks permission from the Tribal leaders to speak about Fawcett.
If we could please ask Don Antonio what he remembers about the stories of Col. Fawcett himself. Did his parents speak to him, did his relatives speak to him about Fawcett. What kind of stories were they telling.
Native leaders speaks in language
Ok, The chief at that time was his uncle, okay. Then they arrive at his uncles house and they gave him some food at the time they was staying you know for the two days they were staying, they feed him. But at the time they leave, he was carrying his own supplies.
In 1925 at age 58, Fawcett had just one more chance of finding the Lost City of Z. Once again, he came a thousand miles by train and riverboat from Rio, then crossed the unforgiving Mato Grosso state: 3 times the size of Texas.
To ensure success he brought with him his strapping 22-year old son Jack and Raleigh Rimmell, Jack’s lifelong friend who, it turned out, was ill-prepared to handle the physical challenges of the trip.
Those challenges were compounded by the lack of funding. Fawcett managed to scrape together some backing from the Royal Geographical Society, the Rockefellers, and a large newspaper consortium but it was much less than needed for an expedition of this sort.
Percy was now an official correspondent and the exploits of the daring party would be followed by millions. Indian runners were employed to take dispatches out of the wilderness, back to civilization along with photographs which Percy took great pride in.
Fawcett was very good at writing the dispatches, he made them quiet riveting and even reading them today you can see how they made the front pages. This really was an Indiana Jones figure
Niall’s search for Fawcett clues continues. Several miles from the Bakairi village, Chief Don Antonio has located a river crossing Fawcett passed through on his last expedition.
Further discussions with the Bakairis confirm what Fawcett wrote in his logs. He crossed the creek, then stayed for 2 days with a local cattle baron at his ranch before arriving in the Indian village.
Remnants of the ranch and Col. Fawcett’s visit remain.
Don Antonio interview (Fernando Translates)
He say that you know once that he get inside the Bakairi village you know that he have a very warm welcome and he stay there and you know he say I don't need anything, I just need a place to stay, I want my animals to have a rest okay, I take care of my people, you know I have everything, I have food, I have water, I only need a place to rest. Next morning, they ask him how he sleep, how he rest. He say perfectly, I slept better here right next to the river.
A report from one of the rescue missions said that Fawcett had gone up the Kululene river and was killed after insulting a fierce indian chief, or kasik. But the visit here has given Niall some new insight.
Don Antonio, whose uncle was the kasik at the time when Fawcett passed through here, specifically remembers that he was a warm and a welcoming man and very smiley, even though there were considerable language barriers. Now that doesn't tally at all with two of the rumors surrounding Fawcett's disappearance, one of which stated that he had touched the daughter of a chief inappropriately and had subsequently been killed and the other one which states that he had actually beaten the son of one of the local chiefs. Now Fawcett himself in all his diaries talked about trying to maintain positive relations with the indigenous people of the area and the way the Bakairi remember him tallies exactly with what Fawcett has written and it makes me want to rule out those two possibilities as to why he disappeared.
Making Fawcett feel welcome, the Bakari’s would have shared their sacred KAPA dance. This was a glimpse into the mysteries which lay ahead … a tangled dark jungle filled with all manner of creatures and forest beings.
A clue to the location of Fawcett’s last camp is a waterfall described in the 1753 manuscript and in Fawcett’s journals.
about 3 wks journey from here, we expect to strike the waterfall ... heard about it from the Bacairy Indian Roberto ... it can be heard five leagues away and there is to be seen an upright rock with painted figures, protected from the waters.”
We've just learned this morning about these waterfalls which are of cultural significance to the Bakairi and Fawcett refers to the waterfalls as a signpost to the lost city of Zed. We're here in the Bakairi village on Santana, here are the waterfalls and right in the middle of them on a straight line are the new coordinates to Dead Horse Camp.
These are the same coded coordinates written by son Brian into Percy’s diary and the ones Nina referred to. Fawcett used coded map coordinates to throw people off his trail. Only his family knew his exact route.
Up until now, everyone has been looking for Fawcett's last location have been looking 200 miles further to the North. Now, we have to go there, we don't know what it's going to be like. It might be completely and utterly impenetrable, but we've got to go and we've got to try and find it and who knows, we might just stumble across Fawcett's genuine last location
Older map coordinates are not as accurate as today, so finding the waterfall first, will help them pinpoint Fawcett’s direction and the location of Dead Horse Camp.
5 hours into their trip, 5 hours to go, and an unfinished bridge.
They have few options...
...and they've agreed that they are going to build this bridge for us and we're going to give it a go, we are going to take the trucks and we are going to try and drive over this half built rickety bridge and it's going to save us half a day.
A slight slip of the wheel could send the vehicle tumbling off the bridge.
Very nicely done Fernando, nicely done driving over that! Hahaha.
Soy bean farming has stripped the thick bush land that Fawcett walked through.
But in Fawcett's time he had different concerns.
Heat, lack of water, snakes and disease-carrying insects were a constant problem. Raleigh now suffered from a badly infected bite on his leg.
He refused to go back, both Jack and the colonel tried to persuade him to return but he wouldn't. They were preceding with a lame person someone who was certain to hold them up. While they still had mules, while they still had some kind of transportation, that was sort of okay, but once they had to go by foot, it couldn't have worked, he just couldn't have done it.
Traveling further inland, Niall and Fernando locate a Bakairi man who shows them the way to the falls, considered sacred to his people.
This was a major find for Fawcett: the 1753 manuscript said the falls were close to the Lost City and home to strange inscriptions and silver mines sealed with large rock slabs.
They are among the few outsiders to visit this remote location.
It’s not clear Percy made it here ... but it is possible fortune hunters who wrote the ancient manuscript did.
Hiding beneath the water, the sparkling treasures described by the fortune seekers.
They’re guarded by South American dragons: 6 ft electric eels that can kill a man.
What we've got here are rocks which look exactly like blocks of silver. Now what they’ll be is Mica glistening like silver and over there next to all the caves, are large slab like rocks. Now, it's just a different strata ... makes it look like it’s a man made slab. You can understand how a team of Portuguese Conquistadors in the 1750's after years of hiking through the bush, starved to the point of delirium might well have believed that these were genuinely blocks of silver and those were man made slabs, covering the mines which contained in them enormous riches that they wanted to bring back to the King of Portugal.
More pieces of the puzzle come together above the falls; the Bakari man brings Niall to an unexplored cave covered in ancient writing.
The fortune hunters thought the text they saw might be Greek, and Fawcett himself reproduced them in his logs, speculating they could come from the fabled city of Atlantis. Niall thinks these designs look close to some of the text in the logs.
This looks very very Atlantean. It'll be great to actually see when we compare it on the manuscript, how closely they resemble the writings in the manuscript of 1753.
With the falls as a likely Fawcett destination, they now back track, using GPS to line up Fawcett’s last location at Dead Horse. Maps tell them, it must lie on a river between the Bakairi Village and the Falls. They solicit the help of locals to find their way.
In 1925, the Fawcett party walked and rode overland for 4 weeks to get to Dead Horse Camp: so named because Percy shot his sick horse there in 1921. Raleigh's health had gotten worse, and the journey had only just begun. Ahead of them lay thick jungle and hostile tribes.
Why then had Percy risked his son Jack’s life on this journey?
The underlying purpose, not divulged to anyone but his family, dates back to the time of Jack's birth in Ceylon.
He says he was visited by a delegation of holy men from India and they told him that he was to become the father of a son, and that this son would be the reincarnation of a Buddhist holy man, that the son would have very special powers and would be a very special person, and they predicted that he would have certain physical traits. There was to be a mole on the inside of one of his feet and his toes were to be of an irregular shape. When the boy was born, Percy said all of these things matched and he came to believe it. Jack was very special to them. They felt that he had very high spiritual and psychic powers and that he had some sort of destiny that would be of major importance to mankind as a whole. That he would become a leader, but not just a leader, not just a spiritual leader but a leader who would have the powers of the masters that Blavatsky had talked about.
So Jack came to Brazil to fulfill the prophesy of the Buddhist holy men and the beliefs of Madame Blavatsky. It was here in the city of Z that Jack's future would be clearly defined.
It was particularly important that Jack be on the last expedition. Fawcett believed that when they reached the hidden city, the white tribe that lived there, the masters, these extremely wise super human people would recognize Jack as one of their own and would welcome them into the community and share their secrets.
They arrived at Dead Horse Camp, 3 months after leaving Rio De Janeiro. Despite the difficulties, Fawcett continued writing dispatches for the newspapers. He knew he'd have to keep Raleigh’s spirits up, even if his chances looked slim. It was imperative that he and Jack make it to Z. And this would be the last chance to get a message to the outside world and to his wife Nina.
Inevitably, they run out of runners. There were only so many people who could go back with the stories and after they'd left Bakairi Post and headed toward Dead Horse Camp, the last runner went with the last story. In the final dispatch when the last of the runners returned Fawcett sent a message to his wife Nina.
He said, that she have no fear of failure. The message reflected his own confidence and optimism that he was going to the lost cities at last.
Somewhere, in a narrow strip of jungle still surviving among these soy bean fields is the site of Fawcett's last camp.
Right last junction, 8 kilometers and then left.
Then ... a wash out. There's only a narrow, crumbling strip of mud road left … no room for their truck. They have work to do.
The brittle mud barely holds the truck’s weight...
we've got six inches of space, there's absolutely no room for error whatsoever, no margin for error, but we're over, we're on our way back towards Dead Horse Camp, let's roll.
This is it, look at this, look how shallow this is.
Yeah, this is the perfect spot to crossing.
There's the crossing. There it is. This is an old trail.
All the pieces seem to add up -- it’s Dead Horse Camp: the right coordinates, a shallow river crossing and back in the woods, a camp site used by travelers to this day.
The river and jungle make short work of what does not belong. No sign of Fawcett artifacts or remains.
From as far as I can tell, this is where they would have camped, this is Dead Horse Camp. We've had a good look around the forest for several hundred meters in either direction and this is the best place to camp. This tree here has obviously has had people sitting on it for decades and decades and decades. There’s lots of excellent trees here for slinging hammocks, there's actually a fire place over here which must have been used, I don't know within the last year or so, this is pretty much it.
After the dispatch from Dead Horse, there was only silence. And most, including Nina and the RGS believed that the Percy was surviving as he always had...
Fawcett was considered indestructible; but after a year since his last message, even the Royal Geographical Society grew skeptical. Discussions of a rescue mission began and public interest swelled anew.
The public imagination had been very firmly hooked by the Fawcett story. People not just in Britain but throughout the United States and Europe and Australia ... all felt that Fawcett could have been captured by Indian tribes and could be quite well and thriving and living with these tribes perhaps in one of the lost cities.
As early as 1927 reports came in from Brazil: an engineer named Courteville said he met Fawcett and the three were thriving in a glorious Eden. It was not to be.
Two years after any word had come from Fawcett, Nina was sure Percy was still alive and she began to encourage the RGS to send out an official rescue mission
I think Nina, and she is always putting on a brave face towards everybody but I get a great sense that on the inside, she's not coping with it too well.
At the Torquay museum where Niall saw Fawcett’s diary and compass, a researcher is transcribing his journals and her letters.
Especially when Fawcett's gone missing, I find that she's using very spiritual things to try and get her through. She is constantly focusing on there must be a reason for this, there must be a predetermined thing I'm supposed to go through as a person. And she is always talking about one day we'll get the call, and we'll go over to him and be with him in the lost city.
Finally, in 1928, the Society mounted a rescue expedition and they backed a colorful adventurer named Col George Dyott... who had recently retraced former US President Teddy Roosevelt’s 1913 Amazon expedition.
Dyott was equipped with sophisticated two way radios and he was picked up, his messages were picked up by two way radio hams throughout the United States who were passing them on to radio stations and so once again the Fawcett story made the headlines and the front pages. The story had enormous legs, it just kept on going.
Dyott received credible evidence that Fawcett was killed by Bandits in the Mato Grosso. Ignoring this, he pursued a native claiming to have guided Fawcett much deeper into the Xingu Amazon region. Dyott and his men followed him in...and found themselves in hostile territory: each tribe pointing to the other as Fawcett’s killers
Dyott was held captive by Indians, barely escaping with his life. He did not find Fawcett but turned his adventure into a book and Hollywood movie.
Then in 1937, a missionary named Martha Moennich announced she’d found a white boy, she felt certain was the son of Jack Fawcett. It turned out he was an albino native. The rescue missions continued.
Literally thousands of people applied to go on these expeditions. People as ill qualified as Jack and Raleigh for the most part and dozens of expeditions, dozens set out into the Mato Grosso looking for him and continue to look for him to this day.
But new evidence points to Fawcett's signet ring, found in a Mato Grosso shop in 1979 and returned to his granddaughter.
I became involved in it in the 1970’s when I met …
Brian Ridout, a wildlife biologist, unraveled a tangled web of shady characters leading to the ring in the Mato Grosso in the mid 1970’s.
Shopkeeper Vicente Grisolia and his wife claimed he got the ring on Percy’s disastrous earlier hunt for Z: either in exchange for mules or as payment for guiding the Englishman towards the lost city.
Ridout thinks Grisola’s ring story is suspicious.
Nina told the RGS Percy had the ring on the final expedition and would not have given it up easily.
I don't think that he needed a guide. He was a founder, Gold Medalist from the Royal Geographical Society, he'd gone through their surveying course ... and no reason to suppose that he didn't know where he was at every day of the week. I'm sure he knew precisely where he was at all times. So, I don't think he got lost in the jungle. He disappeared because somebody killed him.
Basically, there are only three things that could have happened to them. They were either killed by Indians, they died as a result of some accident, perhaps disease, perhaps drowned in a river … or thirdly, there had been a revolution not long before and renegade soldiers had been hiding out in the area and there had been a number of occasions within months of this expedition in which travelers had been stopped and robbed and in some cases murdered by these rebel soldiers. That could have happened to them also.
All the pieces now come together to tell a new version of Fawcett’s fate. Percy’s theodolite compass was found within days of Dead Horse Camp: it’s possible it was stolen then abandoned. And it’s unlikely a remote tribe like the Kalapalos would have traded the ring for money. And that means Fawcett likely did not get as far into the Amazon as Col Dyott claimed he did.
When the Fawcett party actually left Cuiaba the whole town came out to see them off and Fawcett being there was quite an event. So I know from people I've met who had been there at that time that there was a sort of massive party when
They left, so everybody knew about the equipment that the Fawcett party had. It was a time when a few new rifles and a bit of money would certainly have come in handy for the sort of neer-do-well population of the area and I think that the Fawcett party probably didn't get any further than Dead Horse Camp ... and I think that's what happened to them. I don't think there is any evidence whatsoever that they every went around the Kululene River and met the Kalapolos Indians and that everybody that's gone looking for Fawcett has headed off in the wrong direction.
In this version, the end comes quickly, not far from Dead Horse Camp, when a renegade catches the old explorer and soldier off guard.
Fawcett is gone, but what of his lost city? Until recently the vast Amazon has hidden its secrets.
Some evidence of advanced communal villages has emerged in the Xingu where Percy was heading in his search for Z... but Niall has heard of even more dramatic discoveries in the western Amazon and he travels more than a thousand miles to other side of Brazil to see for himself.
Hidden in the jungle for two thousand years and only emerging as trees are felled to create farmland, a vast network of mysterious religious sites- Archaeologists believe they are part of an ancient city state stretching some 160 sq. miles.
These prove that ancient lost cities did exist in the Amazon- though they don’t match the expectations of explorers like Fawcett.
Dr. Denise Schann
When we talk about civilization in general people think about buildings and things made out of rock and things like that. In this place and in other places in the Amazon there is no rocks so people build things moving earth.
This vast network of ancient religious sites points to the scale of city that Fawcett was seeking. What's more Fawcett was here in 1907 and actually may have camped inside one of these grass circles.
Denise Schaan helped discover the sites; now she’s the archaeologist in charge of the excavation.
Dr. Denise Schaan:
In the beginning it's funny because people who came here first, he couldn't understand what these things were. And when I saw the pictures for the first the aerial photographs, I got amazed with this. We had this general idea that things like that don't exist in the Amazon
Are they all built to a standard design?
No one fully understands the exact purpose of these deep trenches but they do support at least one of Fawcett's main precepts: large sophisticated populations once lived in the Amazon rainforest.
...When the Spanish got there there was this land with civilized people...
And the more they dig and locate hundreds of sites on Google Earth, the more traditional beliefs about Amazonian settlement are made obsolete.
Is that the same kind of age?
One thing that Amazonian Archeologists have believed for 30, 40 years, that nobody was living in the hinterlands … so it's very strange to find these sites here, because you need lots of people to build them. So, it's what we call monumental construction.
Well Fawcett was right, if there is going to be a lost city there has to be higher populations back then then there are now. The estimates that I've seen from Clark Erickson at the University of Pennsylvania is about a million people, it's a swath that goes from eastern Bolivia all the way into Western Brazil, 700 hundred miles long, 1,000 miles long and the north and south end of it which is the two areas that research has been done are these large earth works -- that are called geoglyphs sometimes -- and they were clearly built by societies that weren't a couple of guys in loin clothes.
A new picture of the western Amazon is now emerging: here, discoveries of ceramics and nearby water sources, indicate human habitation. Geoglyphs may have been religious sites, surrounded by raised fields and communities of 60,000 people.
So, hundred miles west of Fawcett's last search for Z, civilizations are being found in a state mapped by Percy in 1907. While he did not comprehend what lay under his feet, today, Fawcett's journals are being used to help scientists unravel the mystery of these lost cities.
Actually the Fawcett you know report was one of the things we read because he was in this region in the beginning of the 20th Century. And if he talks about clearings, circular villages with Indians, some of them were already abandoned. The Indians had already left.
Fawcett in one of his itineraries that he wrote to the RGS -- he says there is only one way. Now Fawcett was a Geographer so he knows that any geographic point has three hundred and sixty degrees of angles, so in my opinion, Fawcett wasn't just talking about the geographical direction he had to go but about a spiritual direction as well so he had to follow these exact points, Dead Horse Camp, then onto Kamukwakwa Falls where he would have seen what looks like the silver bars were he would have seen what looked like the Atlantean symbols and then carry on into the Xingu area towards the city, but from there on, it's not just about being a great geographer, it's about believing that you are actually going to your final destination, and that's what Fawcett believed. He believed that he was the one man who had both the physical capabilities and the spiritual capabilities to make it to the lost city of Zed.
And I think he should be remembered … despite what anyone might think about the psychic and the spiritual side of it, he should be remembered as a very brave explorer.
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