"" Writer's Wanderings: The Real Indiana Jones

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Real Indiana Jones

Sometimes in looking for things to write about I get on interesting bunny trails. While perusing a list of books that inspire travel I ran across one called The Lost City of Z by David Grann. As I scanned the description, I found that the story was about the man who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones. I couldn't help but follow up on him.

His name was Sir Percy Fawcett and he was quite a colorful character. His resume included being a British artilleryman in Sri Lanka, a tour of duty in World War I and a top secret assignment as a spy in Morocco. He was most famous for his map making expeditions mostly into Brazil and Bolivia. His exploits earned him a prestigious medal from the Royal Geographical Society.

Fawcett developed a theory that an advanced and ancient city had existed in the Amazon. Stories of local natives and one particular story from a Portuguese fortune hunter from 1753 who gave an account of a huge stone jungle metropolis spurred him on.

The explorer became more obsessed with the possibility as time went on and twice in the early 1920s tried to find the city he dubbed Z but was driven back by the conditions of the jungle. Still the 57 year old explorer was convinced the city was there in Brazil and in 1925 set off with his twenty-one year old son and a friend to search again.

The expedition got to a point where he had turned back before and he released his guides continuing on with just his son and the friend. His last communication was what he had sent back with the guides. When two years passed without another word from him, newspapers began to report his probable death. Still stories surfaced that he was living as a native in the jungle or that he was a captive of the Indians. One account had him ruling a tribe of cannibals.

In 1928 the Royal Geographic Society sent an expedition, the first of many that have searched for the lost explorer. The author of the book, David Grann, went into the jungle searching as well and ran across a tribe that had preserved a story in their oral history that fits with Fawcett and his expedition. The tribe warned him not to go into a territory that was ruled by a fierce warring tribe. They never saw him again.

To make the comparison even closer to Indiana Jones, Sir Percy Fawcett's middle name was Harrison--as in Harrison Ford??

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