Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

In the early 1900's, a young man by the name of P. H. Fawcett began to explore what was still the great unexplored - the Amazon rain forest. Although only an amateur explorer, he became one of the biggest successes in mapping out parts of the Amazon, and becoming friends with the hostile native Indians along the way.

Because of stories of ancient cities told to him from the natives, as well as pottery he found, and other clues along the way, Fawcett believed there was once a great and ancient civilization, living in an El Dorado-like city, which he dubbed "Z," and he devoted his life to finding it. In 1925, he disappeared for the last time into the Amazon, taking with him his younger son, 21-year-old Jack, and Jack's best friend Raleigh Rimmel. 

Hundreds of people became obsessed, not simply with the idea of Z, but with what may have happened to Fawcett, a man who, for so long, had seemed invincible. Expeditions to follow Fawcett's footsteps also disappeared into the great unknown. 

David Grann, a journalist, delves into this story with a gripping narration. Using documents from the Royal Geographical Society, as well as correspondence to his wife, and even Fawcett's very own logs and journals, which he finds when visiting a remaining family member, Grann paints a portrait of a fascinating man, at once strong and very much alive, with a personality perfect for exploration - gung-ho and a little bit crazy.

While Grann doesn't quite answer the question "What happened to Fawcett?", he does give the readers so much information to consider on their own, as well as some new findings that suggest that the idea of the lost city isn't so out there after all.

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