Percy Harrison Fawcett

Percy Harrison Fawcett was one of the foremost explorers of his time. He won one of the Royal Geographical Society’s most prestigious awards, the Founder’s Medal, for his exploration of the Amazon. At times, it has seemed that Fawcett was ideally suited to his task. Where his men often fell ill to infection and parasites, Fawcett’s constitution seemed to resist these illnesses naturally. He also possessed a keen determination to explore, which led him to ruthlessly press on when his men demanded rest. These views led a feud with James Murray, an acclaimed Antarctic explorer who had been part of the Shackleton expedition. Finally, whereas many of Fawcett’s colleagues were inclined to view the Indians as a threat, Fawcett tried to befriend them.

Grann explains that Fawcett’s experiences led to many contradictions in his personality and worldview. Raised in the British Empire at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, Grann had many Eurocentric views. His determination and experiences in the army gave him what Grann refers to as a belief in “moral absolutism.” However, when Fawcett began to associate with the Amazonian tribes, he quickly began to praise their way of life and culture, which put him at odds with many of his peers in the Royal Geographical Society. However, Fawcett does not appear to have been aware of the contradiction between his emerging relativism and his Eurocentric upbringing. Instead, his experiences with the Indians seemed to fuel his obsession with Z.

Fawcett seems to have been enamored with the jungle since the completion of his first expedition, which mapped the border between Bolivia and Brazil. However, over time, his obsession with mapping the Amazon grew into an obsession with finding a lost civilization. Fawcett had first discovered the way the rainforest can hide ancient ruins while stationed in Ceylon (now know as Sri Lanka). He believed that a similar process had happened in the Amazon. However, Fawcett began to attach romantic notions to his search, theorizing that Z’s ancient civilization might contain ancient pieces of wisdom now lost to the modern world. Fawcett began to consult psychics in his search for details.


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