History of the Search for Percy H. Fawcett Part 1

About the history of the search for British explorer and surveyor Percy H. Fawcett who disappeared in South America.



During his "forest experience" in South America, British army explorer and surveyor Percy Harrison Fawcett (1867-1925?) heard stories of red-haired, blue-eyed tribes descended from colonists from the East, who brought with them a written language resembling Sanskrit and who built magnificent stone cities surrounded by walls. The stories, along with other "scraps of information," drew him into the obsessive belief that the cities were built at sea level by pioneers from the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. Then in 11,000 B.C. they were heaved to mountain heights by the same worldwide cataclysm that submerged Atlantis. Most had been deserted long ago, but one or two, among them a city he called Z, were still inhabited by a white, timid, clothed people, whose glory was gone, but who knew how to write and had an arcane knowledge of electricity. Guarding them were fierce Morcegos Indians--referred to as bats because they came out only at night--who lived in holes and caves covered with wicker.

Fawcett was a highly competent surveyor, who explored much new territory on his trips to South America between 1906 and 1914 in an effort, sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society, to settle a boundary dispute involving Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. In his relations with Indians, who were often armed with poisoned darts, he strove to be peaceful. Once, as hostile Guarayos shot at his party, who were canoeing down the wild Heath River, he and his group sang an assortment of songs, including "Swanee River" and "A Bicycle Built for Two," until the astonished Indians lowered their weapons in perplexity--a pretty picture of nonviolence.

Though Fawcett had given up his army commission in 1910, he returned to England to fight in W.W. I, emerging with a DSO and the rank of colonel. But his dream of searching for lost cities was still very much alive, and by 1920 he was back in South America. His trip netted little except the discovery in the archives of Rio de Janeiro of a 1753 Portuguese account of a trip to a stone city apparently destroyed long before by an earthquake. By 1922 he was back in England, scheming to return to South America before he was too old (he was then in his 50s) and attempting to prove his theory through various means, including psychometry (a psychic he consulted held a small ancient statue and "saw" a continent stretching from North Africa to South America and a city destroyed by cataclysm).

He decided on 1925 for his expedition. A friend went to New York with an initial $1,500 to raise more funds, while Fawcett planned the trip with his son Jack and Jack's friend Raleigh Rimell, whom he was to take with him. Jack was a handsome athlete, who on a sojourn in California had been a cowhand and had tried to become a movie actor. (Mary Pickford used Jack's cricket bat in Little Lord Fauntleroy.) Raleigh was a "born clown," "keen as mustard" for the trip.

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