The White Rock

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Noted documentary filmmaker and explorer Hugh Thomson was only twenty-one in 1982 when he first led an expedition to the Peruvian Andes in order to study the ancient Inca ruins. He would not return again until 1999 to explore the Inca ruins. Out of his experiences, Thomson has threaded together a wonderful story of history and exploration. The White Rock is more than merely one man’s journey into the Inca heartland, it contains detailed accounts of earlier discoveries made by famous explorers such as Hiram Bingham. Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. Thomson is a natural storyteller. He has a healthy respect for the region and the people who live there. Thomson also understands that the best way to find more Inca ruins is to seek the help of local inhabitants. It is always advantageous for local inhabitants to believe that the success of an expedition is in their own best interests.

Thomson has woven together more than a mere travelogue or adventure story. In The White Rock, he details what it was like for the Incas to live at 10,000 feet. Machu Picchu had been thought of being some sort of religious shrine, but in reality it probably served as a retreat for the Incan emperor. Thomson recounts the Spanish conquistadors incursion into Peru. With the “blessing” of Spain, Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors began their conquest of the Incas in 1532. The title of the book is taken from the remote site of Chuquipalta or “white rock.” This site lies deep in the Andean mountains and few explorers have seen it.

Thomson has written a book that is one part history, one part memoir, one part anthropology, and one part archaeology. In addition, there are pages of photographs, instructive maps, an Inca genealogy, a chronology of the Inca Empire and the Spanish Conquest, a chronology of the exploration of the Vilcabamba, a glossary, and a select bibliography.