History of the Search for Percy H. Fawcett Part 2

About the history of the search for British explorer and surveyor Percy H. Fawcett who disappeared in South America.


It began badly. In New York they found that their money-raising friend had spent the $1,500 in a drunken binge and had collected no more funds. Living on the cheap, they scrounged for other financing and finally found it: the North American Newspaper Alliance agreed to back them for rights to their story. By the spring of 1925 they were in Cuiaba, on the edge of the Mato Grosso, that huge, swampy Brazilian wilderness inhabited by snakes, insects, and hostile Indians. Their route would take them to Dead Horse Camp, where Fawcett's horse had died in 1921, then northeast to the Xingu River, on past an eternally lit "fat tower of stone," then through the forest and north to present-day Conceicao do Araguaia, across to the Rio Tocantins, where Z was, to the Rio Sao Francisco, to the city mentioned in the 1753 account, and out by rail to Bahia City.

May 19 was son Jack's 22nd birthday. On May 29, from Dead Horse Camp, Fawcett wrote a letter to his wife, his last communication, in which he complained of insects, noted that Raleigh had a sore leg, and assured her, "You have no fear of any failure."

Clues for the Hunt

After the disappearance of the party, several individuals claimed to have seen Fawcett. In 1927 French engineer Roger Courteville said he had met a feverish, ragged man claiming to be Fawcett on a road in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Five years later Swiss trapper Stefan Rattin, on a visit to an Indian camp north of the Bomfin River, managed to talk with an old man, a captive, with bright blue eyes, a yellow-white beard, and long hair, who told him he was an English colonel and that his son was with him, but was sleeping. The story was discredited because Fawcett was bald and gray-eyed.

In the following year, a woman from a Nafaqua village at the junction of the Kuluene and Tanguro rivers (not on Fawcett's route) said that three white men had come to their village in a canoe, then gone to live with the Aruvudu Indians. The old man was made chief of the tribe, and the son married a chief's daughter by whom he had a blue-eyed child. They were unable to escape because of hostile tribes, she said.

Other stories, mostly disproven, placed them at the Xingu River, and it was reported at least twice that Indians had killed the party.

A compass, issued to Fawcett in 1913, was found near a tribe of Bacairy Indians in 1933. It was in perfect condition. A dog that accompanied the expedition later returned home, skinny and without a message.

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