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Colonel Percy Fawcett’s hellish experience at the Battle of the Somme convinced him there must be a better world – and he spent the rest of his life trying to find it.

His quest led him to hunt for a fabled ancient lost city in the Brazilian jungle, which he simply called Z but which was supposedly El Dorado — the legendary city of gold.

Now Fawcett’s doomed expedition has inspired a Hollywood film, The Lost City of Z, produced by Brad Pitt...

'I LOVED THAT HELL' Meet Colonel Percy Fawcett, the British explorer who disappeared without trace, was inspiration for Indiana Jones and is hero of new movie The Lost City of Z produced by Brad Pitt


More than 100 people have died searching for clues to his death

By Grant Rollings
25th March 2017
The Sun

COLONEL Percy Fawcett’s hellish experience at the Battle of the Somme convinced him there must be a better world – and he spent the rest of his life trying to find it.

His quest led him to hunt for a fabled ancient lost city in the Brazilian jungle, which he simply called Z but which was supposedly El Dorado — the legendary city of gold.


Colonel Percy Fawcett hunted for a fabled ancient lost city in the Brazilian jungle

Fawcett, who later inspired the creation of movie hero Indiana Jones, went missing in the rainforest in 1925. His body has never been discovered.

Since then it is estimated that close to 100 others have died in the remote and inhospitable jungle while trying to solve the mystery of what happened to the daring explorer.

At the time, Fawcett’s adventure made him famous worldwide, but while the brave exploits of Scott of the Antarctic or Livingstone in Africa have lived on, his story has largely been forgotten.


His adventures inspired the creation of Hollywood hero Indiana Jones

But now Fawcett’s doomed expedition has inspired a Hollywood film, The Lost City of Z, produced by Brad Pitt.

Charlie Hunnam plays Fawcett and Robert Pattinson stars as one of his exploration party, Corporal Henry Costin.

The film is based on a 2009 book, The Lost City of Z, by US writer David Grann.

He says: “It’s important to look at Fawcett after the Battle of the Somme, when he had seen all these men perish and the society suddenly implode around him.


Fawcett went missing in the rainforest in 1925 and his body has never been discovered

“At that point, Z became something else in his mind, a way to find some transcendence and meaning and search for the sublime.”

David believes that by a cruel irony, the ancient city had probably been right under Fawcett’s feet.

He spent three months retracing the pioneer’s Amazon journey in an attempt to discover whether Z ever existed and says: “I think Z was a fairly grounded pursuit.”

Archaeologist Michael Heckenberger showed David man-made dips in the ground which he said had been moats 800 years ago.

Heckenberger has discovered signs of 20 linked settlements, which would each have been home to up to 5,000 people.

In Fawcett’s day the idea of such an advanced society buried deep in the jungle was scorned by academics who believed only “primitive” people lived there.


Now his doomed expedition has inspired a Hollywood film, The Lost City Of Z

Yet Fawcett — family motto “Difficulties be Damned” — was determined to prove them wrong.

The son of an aristocrat who had squandered two family fortunes, Fawcett found work as a surveyor and map maker.

By the war he had already been to South America several times for the Royal Geographical Society and had formed a theory that there had once been a highly civilised society in Brazil’s Mato Grosso region.

Having failed in a solo expedition in 1920, he went back five years later with eldest son Jack and his long-time friend Raleigh Rimell.


Charlie Hunnam (right) plays Fawcett and Robert Pattinson stars as one of his exploration party, Corporal Henry Costin

The jungle was a place for only the hardiest kind, with Fawcett often surviving on nuts alone and having to avoid hazards both on land and in the water — such as the gruesome candiru fish.

He once wrote that he had seen the eel-like fish, which “seeks to enter the natural orifices of the body”, being removed from a man’s private parts.

But despite the dangers he could not resist the *jungle’s lure, adding: “Inexplicably — amazingly — I knew I loved that hell. Its fiendish grasp had captured me, and I wanted to see it again.”


The film is based on a 2009 book, The Lost City of Z, by US writer David Grann

At the time, European explorers were also wary of encountering hostile tribes who they feared would attack them with poisoned darts.

But Fawcett, who unusually refused to allow his men to fire at natives, was cautiously welcomed by many tribes. In his Stetson and riding boots, the then 57-year-old felt sure he would succeed in his final expedition.

On May 29 1925, at Dead Horse Camp — his last-known location — he wrote his final letter to his wife Nina, played in the film by Sienna Miller.

He told her: “You need have no fear of any failure.”


Fawcett, who unusually refused to allow his men to fire at natives, was cautiously welcomed by many tribes

The truth was that by this point Rimell was ill and Jack, 22, was struggling to keep up with Fawcett’s pace.

Members of the local Kalapalo tribe reported that they saw smoke from the trio’s camp for the next five days — and then no smoke was seen again.

For months, Fawcett’s mysterious disappearance gripped the public at home. But finding him was not going to be easy because he had kept his route a close secret.

Some say this was because he did not want others reaching the treasured city before him, but his younger son Brian believed it was out of concern for their safety.


Fawcett pictured in 1925 shortly before his disappearance

Brian, who died in 1984 aged 78, wrote: “He himself — fearful of other lives being lost on his account — urged us to do everything possible to discourage rescue expeditions should his party fail to come back.”

His warnings were not heeded. Among the many search expeditions that followed was one involving James Bond author Ian Fleming’s brother Peter in 1932.

But the party failed to make it within 50 miles of the spot where Fawcett vanished, in an expedition characterised by “splendid incompetence” according to commentators.


European explorers were wary of encountering hostile tribes who they feared would attack them with poisoned darts

Parts of the Amazon remain dangerous to this day, with loggers bludgeoned to death and a team of Fawcett hunters attacked by a tribe as recently as 1996.

Despite a strong likelihood that Fawcett was murdered, wife Nina never gave up hope of his return, even on her deathbed in 1954.

Brian said: “My mother was convinced that some day her husband and eldest son would return.

“It is in no way strange that she should think so. Reports of the fate of my father’s party came in one after another, some credible, some fantastic, but not one conclusive.” Those reports included one of locals handing over bones that were said to be Fawcett’s in 1951.


The Lost City of Z is in cinemas now

It proved to be fake because they were far too short to be his.

Another theory is that Fawcett never intended to leave the jungle.

Theatre director Misha Williams, who has looked through the family’s documents, suggested the explorer wanted to create a commune in the Amazon and believed he would find a female spirit there.

Brian confirmed that both Fawcett and his wife had unconventional beliefs, with an interest in the occult. Nina even asked a mystic to try to find her husband.

He believed the English could “go native” when finding new cultures and said: “There is no disgrace in it.

“On the contrary, in my opinion it shows a creditable regard for the real things in life.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbi...-by-brad-pitt/ (external - login to view)
Last edited by Blackleaf; 4 weeks ago at 08:35 AM..