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Past and Present Meet in the Amazon Jungle

  • Jul 19, 2010
It may seem that there are no longer unexplored areas of the planet. Less than a century ago, however, the Amazon was one of the last, great areas that remained mysterious. Perhaps it was because it was jungle, a green space so dense that few had ever dared to explore it. While it is true that many used the rivers that fed the Amazon River, not many left the river for the interior. In 1906, British explorer Percy Fawcett, who was affiliated with the British Royal Geographic Society, which was in the midst of mapping the world, was given the task of mapping the border between Bolivia and Brazil. Nearly a year later, Fawcett emerged from the jungle, gaunt but extremely happy. He loved the jungle; while it was menacing, it also afforded him solitude. Much like an addiction, he continued to return to the Amazon as it consumed his every waking hour. Until 1925, when he left on an adventure to discover the city he christened Z. Then it turned fatal. David Grann details Fawcett's obsession, and his own, in The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.

Contents: Preface; We Shall Return; The Vanishing; The Search Begins; Buried Treasure; Blank Spots on the Map; The Disciple; Freeze-Dried Ice Cream and Adrenaline Socks; Into the Amazon; The Secret Papers; The Green Hell; Dead Horse Camp; In the Hands of the Gods; Ransom; The Case for Z; El Dorado; The Locked Box; The Whole World is Mad; A Scientific Obsession; An Unexpected Clue; Have No Fear; The Last Eyewitness; Dead or Alive; The Colonel's Bones; The Other World; Z; Acknowledgements; A Note on the Sources; Notes; Selected Bibliography; Index

David Grann tells two stories in The Lost City of Z; one story concerns an explorer chasing a dream, the other is a reporter chasing the explorer chasing the dream. On one hand you witness Fawcett attempting to raise funds for his adventure, which was not a very popular quest. On the other hand, there is a reporter from New York City who doesn't like to camp, has never climbed a mountain or hunted, and yet feels the need to follow in Fawcett's footsteps in order to determine the fate of "the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass and an almost divine sense of purpose." It is an interesting and compelling narrative. When focusing on Fawcett, the reader discovers the bigotry and racism prevalent in British adventurers of the time, the fate of explorers searching for Fawcett, the deadly flora and fauna of the Amazon, and the myths of El Dorado.

When Grann begins to chart his adventure, he uses Google Maps. To prepare for the Amazon, he visits an outdoors store in New York City, picking up many high technology devices, clothing, and equipment. It is a humorous endeavor, one that reminds the reader that we have access to equipment that was unknown to Fawcett in 1925. However, the jungle is no less dangerous in our time. The final chapters read like a penny press novel, gripping and exciting. Grann follows his subject to a remote region called Xingu, where he is introduced to a person that was likely the last to see Fawcett alive. He also believes that he has found the remains of Z.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon makes the current world seem very small. By revealing real adventurers, blazing trails with machetes, compass, and will, the world at that time seemed limitless. Now, using Google, GPS, and satellite phones, the world seems much smaller. Grann's adventure is neither a disappointment to him nor the reader. While Fawcett's story is nearly a century old, Grann follows it very well, through all of the ups and downs, twists and turns. The Lost City of Z is an extremely well researched, fascinating and thrilling experience.

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review by . February 05, 2009
I'm a sucker for exploration mysteries, and the Amazon is the Fenway Park of exploration mysteries. As Grann summarizes in sketching in the backstory for his mystery, the Amazon has swallowed 500 years worth of explorers looking for land, gold, rubber, health, wealth, and salvation.     Grann tells the tale of grand Victorian explorer Percy Fawcett, who represented the empire and the Royal Geographic Society in several intrepid overland marches through the Amazonian basin mapping …
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
It's truly scary how many things can kill you in the Amazon. Great adventure/history story.
Quick Tip by . May 25, 2010
So packed full of history and archeological info about the Amazon jungle. Highly recommend this one.
review by . February 11, 2010
remember those cool adventure stories you read as kid? Well, this one is true.
(read as an ARC in 2008)         I picked up this book and was immediately lost between the covers and could not stop reading until I had finished the entire thing.      The author sets forth the story of Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, a British explorer who in 1925 set out on an expedition to the Amazon to find what he had named the "lost city of Z." He was convinced that an ancient and "highly cultured" people lived in the …
review by . August 21, 2009
This is a truly excellent book that tells the parallel stories of two explorers- one looking for El Dorado, the other looking for the truth. From the very first page, Grann pulls the reader into the story; it is easy to see how he became obsessed with the story of missing explorer Percy Fawcett and why it risked everything to try to find the truth about Fawcett's disappearance. This book is a real-life Indiana Jones story which kept this reader on the edge of her chair.    The …
review by . February 13, 2009
Percy Harrison Fawcett
The obstacles to proving his theory were overwhelming. As a young man Percy Fawcett became convinced that contrary to conventional wisdom a highly advanced civilization once thrived in the extremely hostile climes of the Amazon. Fawcett made his first foray into the region around 1910 and laid the groundwork for his world famous expedition in 1925. It was a journey from which he and his two associates would never return. "The Lost City of Z: A Tale Of Deadly Obsession In The Amazon" chronicles …
review by . April 23, 2009
I rather imagine that "The Lost City of Z " is going to be in my Top 10 Reads of 2009. I say this because it's a book that has so much going for it: Adventure, Mystery, Tantalizing Facts... not to mention that it is well written.    The book is about Sir Percy Fawcett. A member of the Royal Geographic Society, Fawcett was a remarkable explorer and a man who managed to captivate the attention of people around the world in the early part of the 20th Century. Newspapers and then …
review by . February 26, 2009
David Grann's tale of personal and historic adventure in Amazonia is the kind of book that will rob you of sleep. The author retells the career of "Colonel" Percy Fawcett, the last and greatest of the swashbuckling amateur explorers to come out of the 19th century. Fawcett's seemingly superhuman courage and derring-do left others in the dust, or, more accurately in this case, in the mud. After mapping thousands of square miles of the Amazon basin in sequential journeys lasting years at a stretch, …
review by . February 05, 2009
"The Lost City of Z" is a very worthwhile and entertaining account of a now-forgotten explorer. In my opinion, Grann has done an outstanding job of painting Fawcett as a man of his times, but also able to keep the story relevant.     I will not get into too much of the background (Amazon.com has already provided a very solid account of what the story is about) however, the "Lost City of Z" provides all of the ingredients for a great adventure story. A lost city... fabulous riches... …
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Gregg Eldred ()
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A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century": What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world's largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle's The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization—which he dubbed "Z"—existed. Then he and his expedition vanished.

Fawcett's fate—and the tantalizing clues he left behind about "Z"—became an obsession for hundreds who ...

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ISBN-10: 0385513534
ISBN-13: 978-0385513531
Author: David Grann
Genre: History, Explorations
Publisher: Doubleday
Date Published: February 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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