The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
Narrated by: Mark Deakins
Length: 10:06 (352 pages)
Still on my adventure kick, I decided to turn to non-fiction this time. This is the story of a rumoured lost city, deep in the Amazon jungle, that captured the minds of explorers for years. Up to a hundred people have disappeared or been killed while searching for Z. I think this was described somewhere as a true to life Indiana Jones tale, which meant I was immediately on board. You can get me to do anything if you hint at the slightest similarity to Indiana Jones.
In 1925, British explorer and archaeologist Percy Fawcett went missing with his son during their search through the Brazilian jungle for this hidden city. I was unfamiliar with Percy Fawcett, but he must be the closest we’ve come to the classic explorer featured in so many books and movies. He was a member of the Royal Geographical Society, which was essentially an explorer’s guild. They trained members in cartography and survival and sent them on expeditions to expand the United Kingdom’s knowledge and maps of foreign lands. I believe they funded Fawcett’s first seven expeditions throughout South America after he joined.
Fawcett was also friends with both H. Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle, and his field notes from the Amazon directly inspired The Lost World. He’s basically the coolest.
He had to take a break from his search for the Lost City of Z to fight in WWI with the Royal Artillery, but went on his eighth and final expedition with his son soon after returning from the war. He had to get external funding this time, as the members of his seventh expedition nearly all starved to death in the jungle. You would think being in a lush jungle, full of life, would offer plenty of opportunity to gather and scavenge enough food to stay alive, but it’s apparently incredibly difficult to feed oneself in that environment, with most of the jungle’s wildlife out of reach in the canopy.
The book covers the history of Fawcett’s search and mirrors it with similar expeditions that came later and met the same fate. The author, David Grann, tells all of this while planning his own expedition in an attempt to discover what actually happened to Fawcett and his son and to see if there is any evidence of this fabled secret city.
I thought this was great. It reads like those classic adventure novels but has the bonus of actually being true. Percy Fawcett feels like a character straight out of fiction, someone I would have obsessed over in my youth. The journals from his earlier expeditions were published by his son, so I’m going to pick those up at some point. A first-person account of his travels could potentially be really fun to read through.