30 December, 2012

Percy Fawcett



 Lieutenant Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett was a British geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist and explorer of South America. Along with his eldest son, Fawcett disappeared in 1925 during an expedition to find "Z" – his name for an ancient lost city, which he and others believed to exist and to be the remains of El Dorado, in the jungles of Brazil.

Percy Fawcett was born on 18 August 1867 in Torquay, Devon, England, to Edward Boyd Fawcett and Myra Elizabeth. He received his early education at Newton Abbot Proprietary College along with Bertram Fletcher Robinson. Percy Fawcett's India-born father was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). His elder brother Edward Douglas Fawcett (1866–1960) was a mountain climber, Eastern occultist and author of philosophical books and popular adventure novels.

Fawcett attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich as a cadet, being commissioned as a lieutenant of the Royal Artillery on 24 July 1886. On 13 January 1896 he was appointed adjutant of the 1st Cornwall (Duke of Cornwall's) Artillery Volunteers, and was promoted to captain on 15 June 1897. He later served in Trincomalee, Ceylon, where he also met his future wife Nina Agnes Paterson, whom he married in January 1901 after having previously ended their engagement. They had two sons, Jack (born 1903) and Brian (1906–1984), and one daughter, Joan (1910–2005). He joined the RGS himself in 1901 in order to study surveying and mapmaking. Later, he worked for the British Secret Service in North Africa while pursuing the surveyor's craft. He served for the war office on Spike Island, County Cork from 1903 to 1906, where he was promoted to major on 11 January 1905.[8] He became friends with authors H. Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle; the latter used Fawcett's Amazonian field reports as an inspiration for his novel The Lost World.

Fawcett's first expedition to South America was in 1906 when at the age of 39 he travelled to Brazil to map a jungle area at the border of Brazil and Bolivia at the behest of the Royal Geographical Society. The Society had been commissioned to map the area as a third party unbiased by local national interests. He arrived in La Paz, Bolivia in June. Whilst on the expedition in 1907, Fawcett claimed to have seen and shot a 62 foot long giant anaconda, a claim for which he was ridiculed by scientists. He reported other mysterious animals unknown to zoology, such as a small cat-like dog about the size of a foxhound, which he claimed to have seen twice, or the giant Apazauca spider which was said to have poisoned a number of locals.

Fawcett made seven expeditions between 1906 and 1924. He was mostly amicable with the locals through gifts, patience and courteous behaviour. In 1908, he traced the source of the Rio Verde (Brazil) and in 1910 made a journey to Heath River to find its source, having retired from the British army on 19 January. After a 1913 expedition, he supposedly claimed to have seen dogs with double noses. These may have been Double-nosed Andean tiger hounds.

Based on documentary research, Fawcett had by 1914 formulated ideas about a "lost city" he named "Z" somewhere in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil. He theorized that a complex civilization once existed in the Amazon region and that isolated ruins may have survived.[14] Fawcett also found a document known as Manuscript 512, written after explorations made in the sertão of the state of Bahia, and housed at the National Library of Rio de Janeiro. It is believed to be by Portuguese bandeirante João da Silva Guimarães, who wrote that in 1753 he'd discovered the ruins of an ancient city that contained arches, a statue, and a temple with hieroglyphics; the city is described in great detail without providing a specific location. This city became a secondary destination for Fawcett, after "Z".

At the beginning of the First World War Fawcett returned to Britain to serve with the Army as a Reserve Officer in the Royal Artillery, volunteering for duty in Flanders, and commanding an artillery brigade despite the fact that he was nearly fifty years of age. He was promoted from major to lieutenant-colonel on 1 March 1918, and received three mentions in dispatches from Douglas Haig, in November 1916, November 1917, and November 1918, and was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June 1917.

After the war Fawcett returned to Brazil to study local wildlife and archaeology. In 1920, he made a solo attempt to search for "Z", but ended after suffering from a fever and shooting his pack animal.

In 1925, with funding from a London-based group of financiers known as the Glove, Fawcett returned to Brazil with his eldest son Jack and Jack's best and longtime friend, Raleigh Rimell, for an exploratory expedition to find "Z". Fawcett left instructions stating that if the expedition did not return, no rescue expedition should be sent lest the rescuers suffer his fate.

Fawcett was a man with years of experience travelling, and had brought equipment such as canned foods, powdered milk, guns, flares, a sextant, and a chronometer. His travel companions were both chosen for their health, ability and loyalty to each other; Fawcett chose only two companions in order to travel lighter and with less notice to native tribes, as some were hostile towards outsiders.

On 20 April 1925 his final expedition departed from Cuiabá. In addition to his two principal companions, Fawcett was accompanied by two Brazilian labourers, two horses, eight mules, and a pair of dogs. The last communication from the expedition was on 29 May 1925 when Fawcett wrote, in a letter to his wife delivered by a native runner, that he was ready to go into unexplored territory with only Jack and Raleigh. They were reported to be crossing the Upper Xingu, a southeastern tributary river of the River Amazon. The final letter, written from Dead Horse Camp, gave their location and was generally optimistic.

Many people assumed that local Indians killed them, as several tribes were nearby at the time: the Kalapalos, the last tribe to have seen them, the Arumás, Suyás, and the Xavantes whose territory they were entering. The Kalapalo have an oral story of the arrival of three explorers which states that the three went east, and after five days the Kalapalo noticed that the group no longer made camp fires. The Kalapalo say that a very violent tribe most likely killed them. However, both of the younger men were lame and ill when last seen, and there is not any proof that they were murdered. It is plausible that they died of natural causes in the Brazilian jungle.

In 1927, a name-plate of Fawcett was found with an Indian tribe. In June 1933, a theodolite compass belonging to Fawcett was found near the Baciary Indians of Mato Grosso by Colonel Aniceto Botelho. However, the name-plate was from Fawcett's expedition five years earlier and had most likely been given as a gift to the chief of that Indian tribe. The compass was proved to have been left behind before he entered the jungle on his final journey.

1 comment:

David Austin said...

Peter Fleming, brother of Ian Fleming, took part in a search for Fawcett's remains in the Amazon jungle, and published his account of the expedition as "Brazilian Adventure. Peter was a pipe smoker. The dust jacket of this book or another of his. "News from Tartary" has a fine shot. Here is a link to an interesting shot of Peter with pipe and fur:-
http://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Ftheesotericcuriosa.blogspot.com%2F2010%2F04%2Fladies-of-longford-lady-pansy-lady-mary.html&tbnid=skSCWE3zpmnahM:&docid=xa0vhX_KaMr8KM&h=302&w=225