Mysterious Disappearances: Percy Fawcett

The mysterious disappearance of Percy Fawcett took place in 1925, during a risky expedition where he and two others were searching for an ancient lost city in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Fawcett was a highly-experienced explorer, and has served in the military. His disappearance came as a surprise, and to this day has never been solved. Yet there are many theories revolving around his fate. In this article, we take a look at the story and theories behind the disappearance. This article is also this week’s Sunday Read.


Fawcett and his companions went missing in Brazil

Fawcett was born in 1867. He attended the prestigious Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, London. He would eventually reach the title of Lieutenant in the military. At the conclusion of his military career, he turned to exploration. Fawcett took a special interest in South America, where he gained a favourable reputation. Fawcett completed seven expeditions over an eighteen year period. His past experiences, a manuscript and other information led Fawcett to believe the existence of ‘Z’ – a lost city in the Amazon region of Brazil.




Plans were finalised, and Fawcett returned to Brazil with his eldest son Jack and friend Raleigh Rimell, with the intention of finding the lost city. Two Brazilian labourers, horses, mules and dogs accompanied them during the early phase of the expedition. Fawcett left clear instructions that due to danger, that no rescue expedition should be sent should the group not return. Five weeks into the expedition, the final communication from the group was gained, with a letter sent from Fawcett to his wife. The letter stated they were ready to visit unexplored territory. Unfortunately, the trio were never heard from again.


What happened to the trio is unknown, though many opinions have been formed. Most theories suggest a native tribe killed the trio. Many tribes were operating in the area they were heading to, adding credence to this theory. The final tribe to see them – the Kalapalo – noted that five days after the trio had left their sight, that they didn’t see fires being built anymore. Their tribe suggested a violent tribe killed them. Yet they also noted that the two younger explorers were ill when they had last seen them. It has therefore been suggested that they might have died of natural causes.



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However, while death at the hands of a local tribe was the most accepted conclusion, there were several other theories. Henry Costin, who had accompanied Fawcett on many expeditions before, stated that Fawcett enjoyed good relations with native tribes, and that actually a lack of food would’ve led to the explorers’ death. Natural causes or exhaustion do appear to be popular theories to explain their disappearance. The area is also vast, meaning they could’ve lost their bearings – though Fawcett’s experience would make this unlikely.


Danish explorer Arne Falk-Ronne published a book in the 1990s that suggested he was told by Brazilian activist Orlando Villas-Boas that Fawcett had been killed. The book stated that Fawcett and his group had lost some gifts intended for tribes early in their expedition. They were supposedly struggling with ill health, leading the Kalapalo tribe – the last known tribe to see them – to kill them. Many have doubted this theory however.


Many people believe a tribe was responsible for their disappearance




Despite Fawcett’s wishes to the contrary, several rescue expeditions were launched, yet none were ultimately successful. Some human bones were found on a rescue expedition, though they weren’t related to Fawcett or his companions. The group were never found, and their remains continue to be missing. Their disappearance however has left a strong legacy behind – with films, books and TV shows all made about the disappearance, and the supposed lost city. Above all, there are suggestions that Indiana Jones was modelled on Percy Fawcett too! Unfortunately though, we will never know what happened.



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