The Lost City of Z

What is it that these white people did? Why is it so important for their tribe to find them?

Comaeda Bakairi, one of the last people to see Percy Fawcett alive

Table of Contents

Book Info

Author: David Grann

Published: 2005

Geographic Area: South America

Original Language: English


In 1925, aging adventurer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle. He was accompanied by his son Jack, and Jack’s friend Raleigh. They were searching for an ancient lost city purported to lie deep within the jungle. None of them were ever heard from again.

That mysterious disappearance was only the beginning. Over the decades, countless explorers have trekked in Fawcett’s footsteps, hoping to find him and his companions, or at least their remains. Many of these explorers have themselves gone missing.

The most recent in this long line of search parties was author David Grann. Grann goes to incredible lengths to dig up the story on Fawcett and his obsession with “The City of Z,” from speaking with the explorer’s living relatives, to conducting painstaking research in old archives, to actually voyaging into the Brazilian Amazon rain forest. Grann does a wonderful job of bringing Fawcett and his expeditions to life, as well as giving invaluable backstory to the jungle and its inhabitants.

Percy Fawcett (1867-?) was born in Britain, served in World War I, and was a member of the Royal Geographic Society. He was officially tasked with exploring the world, although early on he developed a deep connection with the rain forests of South America. He was certainly one of the real life inspirations for Indiana Jones.

Percy Fawcett in 1911

The eponymous “Z” was Fawcett’s way of referring to a sort of Atlantis of the Amazon that he believed existed deep within the jungle. He actually mounted several voyages to the beautiful but unforgiving rain forest in the early-20th century, but was never able to return with more than shards of pottery. He was hoping the 1925 quest would be more fruitful, and bring the ruins of Z to light.

Fawcett was a badass, no lying about that. He survived several expeditions into the jungle that each claimed several lives. Time and time again, he survived ungodly swarms of insects, several deadly diseases, predators, and hostile inhabitants. I particularly respect his sympathy and admiration for the Native American peoples he encountered, which at that time were the victims of heavy assimilation efforts by the Brazilian government. This willingness to deal with local tribes peacefully, and intelligent ways in which he did it, allowed him to form allegiances with several of them all along the Amazon River. In doing so, he charted more of the jungle than virtually anyone before him.

With all due respect to his achievements, it is my sincerest belief that he was mentally unstable: his obsession with the so-called “City of Z” was based on scant evidence. To put himself and others through such grueling expeditions time after time, in search of something that did not have hard facts to back it up, seems insane to me.

Nevertheless, the countless adventures–past and present–make The Lost City of Z extremely difficult to put down. I’ve read many adventure books and this one is certainly one of the finest I’ve ever come across. It is definitely a modern day classic of the genre. While I’m in no hurry to mount an expedition into the jungle, to say it was a pleasure to read is an understatement. I highly recommend it..


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