Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Death of Percy Fawcett

Do you notice any similarity between these gentlemen?
No, neither do I.
But Paramount has chosen Brad Pitt to play Percy Fawcett in an upcoming version of David Grann’s non-fiction book The Lost City of Z. It’s going to be, according to them, an Amazonian mystery/thriller.
And that virtually guarantees to muddy the waters still further about the death of the English explorer who was swallowed up by the Brazilian jungle back in 1925.
Grann, in his book, doesn’t really solve the mystery of what happened to Fawcett.
But he does reject the account of Orlando Villas-Bôas.

Orlando, who died in 2002, was a sertanista, a kind of wilderness explorer peculiar to Brazil, and the country’s Indian expert par excellence.  He spent many years living among the tribes, spoke their languages, established first contact with many of them, and was instrumental in determining a just government policy toward all the indigenous peoples.

I knew Orlando Villas-Bôas personally. He was neither a liar nor a boaster, and his life was packed with more adventure than that of anyone I ever knew. Why, then, should he make things up? Orlando claimed (and I believed him) to have heard the true story of what happened to Fawcett from one of the murderers, a member of the Kalapalos tribe.

Grann visited the Kalapalos in 2005 and got an “oral account” of the incident.
Orlando was there 54 years earlier, in 1951, and spoke to people who were there at the time.
Both accounts agree in some regards:  They agree that Fawcett and his men stayed in the village of the Kalapalos. They agree that Fawcett and his companions had a mishap on the river and lost most of the gifts they’d bought to placate the Indians. They agree that most of the members of Fawcett’s expedition were sick by the time they contacted the Kalapalos. (And, therefore, a danger to the tribe.)

Then the two accounts begin to differ.
According to Grann, the expedition set off to the eastward. The tribesmen, he said, warned Fawcett not to go that way, because the region was inhabited by “fierce Indians”. But Fawcett decided otherwise. And disappeared. End of story. (And this is going to make a mystery/thriller?)

Grann, however, does not relate, and perhaps never discovered, three additional precipitating incidents. And those incidents, for Orlando Villas-Bôas, were of more moment than sickness and/or the absence of gifts. According to Orlando:
  1. Jack Fawcett, Percy’s son, urinated in the river upstream of the village, upstream of where the Kalapalos drew their drinking water. It was an affront to the entire tribe to do so.
  2. One of the members of Fawcett’s expedition shot a small animal. They brought it into the village and hung it up by a cord to preserve the meat from insects and small scavengers. One of the Indians came along and tried to remove a piece of the meat. An expedition member pushed him away. Another affront. The Kalapalos share food. Not to do is unacceptable behavior.
  3. A small child approached the white men and started playing with their goods. They pushed the child away. The child came back and did it again. One of the white men, in the European custom of the time, struck the child. And that was the greatest affront of all. The Kalapalos never strike their children.

That final incident, according to Orlando, sealed the fate of Fawcett and his men. The Indians waited until the next morning, allowed the expedition to get some distance down the trail and then ambushed and killed them all.

Orlando told me one thing more: in those days, he said, the Kalapalos didn’t lie. They dissembled, but they never told an untruth. He’d asked a direct question, for which he didn’t receive a direct answer. Thus he knew from the get-go there was something afoot. It took him, he said, hours and hours of conversation to extract a frank account of what had really happened.

We sure as hell aren’t going to get one from Hollywood.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Hi Leighton,

    I think you know everybody!

    Does it really matter what Hollywood does with the story when they have Brad Pitt starring in it? I think not. :)


  2. Hi Leighton
    Sounds to me like they would do better doing a movie on Orlando Villas-Boaz. What an adventurer! Fawcett wouldn't be the first explorer to die after behaving badly. Thank you for this interesting account.

    Mari Sloan

  3. Fascinating, Leighton. For me, Fawcett is primarily the object of a wildly wrong-headed expedition described by Peter Fleming (Ian's brother) in a hilarious book called BRAZILIAN ADVENTURE. Fleming signed in 1932 on to search for evidence of what had happened to Fawcett, and it went straight downhill from there. I must have bought and given away five copies of the book at various times.

  4. Fascinating accounts, on all sides. One point, Brad Pitt should never "star" in a movie. He is a character actor, nothing else. He is brilliant as a character actor--Inglourious Basterds, Snatch, etc.

    But that is not on point, really. Your point is that they are basing this movie on a false account. I wonder why. Was the other explorer discredited? Did Grann's book sell more?

    As usual, fascinating post and you do seem to know all!


  5. Hollywood thinks we are all illiterates driven strictly by sexual urges. What do you expect? Best thing to do is not see the movie, or if you must, be sure to write a scathing review.

  6. Mari,
    Yes, I don't know why no one has ever done a film about Orlando. He was nominated for the Nobel prize, rightfully so, but never won it.

    Thanks for the tip on "Brazilian Adventure". I shall try to lay my hands on a copy.

    Grann's book DID sell well, better than any other book written on the subject to date. I don't know why. Who can say what captures the imagination? As to what is true, and what is false, I don't suppose there's ever going to be an answer for that. I know what I believe, and I believe it because I knew the man. Mr. Grann apparently doesn't believe the man, but then he never knew him. Orlando got it wrong, apparently, on one thing though: he thought he'd found Fawcett's remains. I've read somewhere that it's been disproved. But, then again, the bones he found might perfectly well have been those of another member of the expedition. The Kalapalos told him where to dig. How would they have known there was a body there? Surely, they wouldn't have let him dig up one of their own ancestors. And, according to Orlando, the body he found was wearing European attire and wasn't buried in the custom of the tribe. It was simply tossed into a hole and covered with dirt.
    He kept those remains in a bag, in a closet, in his apartment in São Paulo. He showed them to me once. It was...macabre.

    "best thing you can do is not see the movie, or if you must..."
    That's the irritating thing. I know I'm gong to get annoyed, but I MUST. Hollywood location scouts, costume designers,set designers, etc. are just so good at what they do. Independent of the (what I consider to be) misinformation, they're going to create a window into Brazil in the 1920's. The production values should be terrific - and I don't want to miss them. Anybody who's seen a recent picture of Brad Pitt will note that he already has the beard - and it's just like Fawcett's.

    I do not know everybody.
    But I'm pleased to know you.

  7. Fantastic response. I am always amazed by what you know, or at least what you write! :P

    I'll be including this post in my Sunday Foreign Post Roundup tomorrow.


  8. Thanks, Michele.
    I'm most appreciative.

  9. Fawcett was a fascinating story (although, Brad Pitt??? Good Lord.) I've read this account of his death before, but my problem with it is that it has Fawcett and his companions behaving in a manner that they must have known would infuriate the Kalapalos. By all accounts, Fawcett was very knowledgable about all the different native tribes and was always careful to treat them with respect. The behavior described in this story seems completely out of character (not to mention suicidal.)

    1. I agree. I came here to say this. He seemed very respectful of the natives. It doesn’t make sense.

  10. Hi Undine,
    Suicidal indeed.
    Orlando, if he was still alive. would probably agree with you.
    Except the word he used with me was "ignorant".
    Your readings have led you to believe that Fawcett was both knowledgeable and that he was always careful to treat the tribes with which he came into contact respectfully.
    Maybe so.
    But consider this:
    Orlando never said that it was Fawcett himself who committed any of the three precipitating incidents.
    Urinating in the river he attributed to Fawcett's son, not Fawcett.
    And he never said that Fawcett was personally guilty of trying to hog the meat or the ill treatment of the child.
    So, if Fawcett was knowledgable, it might well have been other members of his expedition, not Fawcett himself, who got them all into trouble.
    But I ask myself how knowledgeable he could have been about the customs of that particular tribe.
    At that time (the 1920's) little was known about any of the peoples inhabiting that region. And I doubt that anyone other than the Kalapaolos themselves spoke their language.
    Orlando and his brothers started their work in the 1940's, mastered the tongue and, with it, learned the customs.
    And I think knowledge is the key factor here.
    Fawcett might well have tried to treat the tribes he came into contact with respectfully. But how could he do so if he didn't know their beliefs and customs?
    And how could he learn them if there were no books, no experts and no linguists to help him?
    The first real experts on the Brazilian Indians were the Villas-Bôas brothers.
    I wish we still had Orlando around to join in this discussion.
    I wish we still had Orlando around period.

    1. You are more incorrect than not. Having just read "The Fate of Col. Fawcett" a book published in 1955 Aquarian Press, London by G. Cummings, one must consider that Percy Fawcett, extremely knowledgeable about tribes in Brazil would never have allowed his son Jack and Jack's friend along with others of his company to join him in exploration of the vicious land of the Motto Grasso unless they were all aware of important facets of life in the jungle to Fawcett's satisfaction. The ending of Col. Fawcett's life and crew is fascinating to look into and I strongly recommend getting the book. It is filled with inside information from interesting parties concerned at the immediate time and shortly thereafter where the more discriminating information could have been gathered about the Fawcett case.

    2. I doubt very much an explorer would go off on an adventure with his son and friend and not fill them in on what to do and not to do. As for understanding the tribes and cultures, he did make 5 previous trips! Two would have been enough to watch and learn!! Too many space xadets hwre i fear

  11. All good points, thank you for the input. Fawcett was undeniably an odd duck--the more I've read about him, the more I begin to believe virtually anything could have happened to him.

    I've read a little about Orlando Villas-Boaz, as well. He was quite an interesting character himself, I envy you for having actually known him!

  12. Did you actually read the book, or just the summary? Most summaries give it less credit than should be garnered.

    I respect Villas-Boas for being among the best of the Amazonian explorers, but his depiction of Fawcett is completely out of character. He had spent years interacting with many native tribes throughout the Amazon, taking careful care to befriend them and not to ignore their customs. I understand Jack peeing in the river, because he may not have known that they were venturing near a tribe, but Fawcett never would have let his men, especially his own son and his comrade, terrorize any Indian, knowing from experience that his life depended on politeness. It just doesn't make sense that he would suddenly change tact with the Kalapalos.

    Additionally, the Indians "having no concept of lying" is clearly a stretch, as they have quite blatantly given two different accounts of Fawcett's fate.

    If you would like to try to engage in a polite discussion with me on the topic, here's my email, or I can just reply again as Anonymous here again, if you'd like.

  13. Also, the bones that Villas-Boas brought back with him were, upon review of DNA analysts, were ethnically Amazonian, not English, so that throws Villas-Boas' account eschew as well.

  14. We're got two folks who have commented on this thread who are signed "Anonymous". This is a reply to the one who wrote on the 26th of March.

    First, let me say that I'm always up for a polite discussion, and I think other readers might be as interested in my reply as they hopefully were with your most interesting contributions.

    It's a fascinating subject and a continuing mystery.

    And, since space for response is limited, I'll have to break my answers up into two (maybe three parts)

    Yes, I did read the book. It's a good book, a fascinating book, well-written and well researched. I recommend it. I just don't agree with Mr. Grann's conclusions.

    To the first point, Orlando's suggestion was that Fawcett, for all of his interaction with the natives, remained ignorant of many of their customs.

    Those customs, Orlando said, varied from tribe to tribe - and Fawcett didn't speak any of their languages.

    He might well, as you say, have "taken care to befriend them and not to ignore their customs". As who would not? It would have been only good sense to do so. And suicide NOT to do so.

    But what if he was ignorant of those particular customs? That was Orlando's point.
    In his opinion, Fawcett and his son simply didn't know they were giving offense. They committed INVOLUNTARY suicide.

  15. As to the lying issue, please not that I did not write "having no concept of lying". What I wrote was "in those days, he (Orlando) said, the Kalapalos didn’t lie. They dissembled, but they never told an untruth."

    The words "in those days" are not there by accident. One of the things Orlando lamented, in my conversation with him on the subject, is that the customs of the Indians were changing. I actually asked him if it was true that the Kalapalos still didn't lie about things. He said that he couldn't be sure, but that many customs shift when tribes are contacted. But, he assured me, back then, when he first questioned them about Fawcett, they didn't.

    Your knowledge of the bones demonstrates that you clearly know your stuff. I didn't mention them in my post because I thought I was running overlong

    Here's what Orlando had to say about them:

    He asked the tribesman he was questioning what the tribe had done with the bodies. The tribesman told him they buried them, but he couldn't remember where.

    By that time, though, the story was out. The Kalapalos had confessed to killing Fawcett, so other members of the tribe were willing to talk to him about the incident.

    One man told Orlando where to dig. (Not the same old fellow who'd given the account of the killings).

    Orlando dug up some bones, one body only, which was all he found, and brought them back.

    He believed them to have been from one of the members of the expedition, but not necessarily from Fawcett himself.

    This was in the days before DNA testing.
    You mention it.
    Is it to your certain knowledge that it was later carried out?
    If so, that would, indeed, have been of great interest to Orlando himself.

    He sent some of them to England for examination.

    He was told they couldn't have been Fawcett's (something, I think. about the length of the tibia not corresponding to Fawcett's height) and the bones were returned to him.

    He kept them in a closet in his apartment in São Paulo.

    A few years went by. A BBC crew was in Brazil to make a documentary that later bore the title "The Tribe that Hides from Man". (There was also a book.) The director of the film, when he arrived in Brazil, went to visit Orlando.

    They were sitting around in that very apartment when the subject of Fawcett came up. Orlando asked the Brit if he would have liked to have met Fawcett. The Brit said that he surely would have.

    So Orlando (his story) went out of the room and came back in with his hand behind his back. He walked up to the Englishman, brought his hand around. and displayed the skull.
    "Fawcett," he said.

    Orlando had, upon occasion, a strange sense of humor.

    He also wasn't sure if he believed the conclusion of a forensic anthropologist in the UK that the bones were "ethnically Amazonian".

    Orlando thought (rightly or wrongly) that the Brits were indulging in a kind of hero worship about Fawcett..

    And they didn't WANT to believe his story.

    So was Orlando, as the Brazilians say, the "owner of the truth" about Fawcett?
    Maybe not.

    And David Grann?
    Maybe not either.

    I fear we're never going to know.

  16. I'm glad you replied so quickly.

    Thanks, I was afraid that you were being a bit biased in your post, but this clarifies your point and makes it more believable, Mr. Gage. I was not really condemning Villas-Boas, who, as I found more info about, seemed like a genuine person concerned with Amazonian American's rights more than most anyone else. I honestly wish I could have known him as well as you so I could know for sure.

    But I think that Villas-Boas could have fallen into the second of the two predominant outsider views of Native Americans and other tribal peoples. The first is the view that they are wild savages with only spite in their minds and cannibalistic appetites (obviously not Villas-Boas' view).

    The second is that the native peoples were innocent and nonviolent and constant victims of Western imperialism, a view held by Bartolome De Las Casas of the Spanish. This view is not a very good one either, as all forms of human organizations have some form of violence within their midst, and Indians are no exception.

    I'm not saying that Orlando fit perfectly into this group, as he probably held a more rational view of his friends, but they are still his friends regardless, so it's hard to be objective about them.

    I believe that Indians, including the Kalapalos are really just like any other organization of humans; they can be nice to hang around with, especially if they deem you a friend, but they also partake in the same unsavory actions and feelings that the inhabitants of modern civilization can, particularly lying, which seems to be an ability developed from birth that is first utilized to get out of trouble and to get things that the user desires. I just do not see why the Kalapalos would be the exception to this rule and why one would not seize the opportunity to make a profit (or so he thought).

    Indeed, we won't know exactly what happened unless perhaps Fawcett's real bones are discovered. I have faith in science and DNA testing, not in the fickle natures of man, Indian or European.

  17. malcolm Boyd, islsail@verizon.netApril 14, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    While Grann doesn't solve the mystery of what happened to Fawcett, it almost doesn't matter. Grann does reveal what may well be the answer to the most important question of all, where is and what happened to Z all the while presenting a well researched account of what happened to a man who cannot speak for himself.
    I would like to read Villas Boas' account and will look for it. I had a crew member on a delivery home from the Bahamas who traveled down the Amazon in a series of boats, rafts and canoes in the 1950's 0r 60's, Robert Johnson, son of Irving and Elekta Johnson and I have spent a fair amount of time in Brasil learning about it's history and culture.

  18. Villas Boas' account is certainly the most compelling to date but by no means conclusive. So he say's the Kalapalos "dont lie". What does that mean? The same perfectly legitimate claim can be made about Percy Fawcett's integrity. He was known to be deeply respectful and compassionate towards the native people of Brazil. To attribute such arrogant, thoughtless behavior to such an experienced explorer borders on the absurd. Numerous tribes in the Amazon basin in the early 20th century needed no excuse to murder strangers, revisionist thinking aside. In view of that fact Fawcett's last venture was essentially a form of suicide.

  19. ^ The upper jaw provides the clearest possible evidence that these human remains were not those of Colonel Fawcett, whose spare upper denture is fortunately available for comparison. Royal Anthropological Institute (London) (1951) "Report on the human remains from Brazil" as quoted by Grann (2009) p. 253

  20. Both accounts are a good read. Villas-Boas mightbe a bit biased though and so maybe Gann presents a little more objective viewpoint. But I know/knew neither men. But I do have a little insight here. I have spent the last 15 years in and out of the Amazon basin of Peru and along the Western border of Brazil with Peru. The first thing a 'gringo' learns about contact with any natives peoples is to beware and learn the customs since your life may depend on it. And yes it varies from group to group as does the language. That would have been even more true in Fawcett's day when so many groups had much less contact than they have to date. (The Spanish language is now very prevalent amoung even remote peoples which makes communication much easier.) So my point being that PHF was extremely aware of this and adept at approaching carefull native peoples. Not many would argue that. I do thing it is conceiveable that his son Jack or Jack's buddy Rimwell could have made a mistake and affronted them...once. But Fawcett would have been too keen of making mistakes and made them very aware of how their life could depend on it for them to have kept on making one mistake after another. Pissing in the river upstream...yep, they easily could have screwed that up. But pushing or slapping a child-- nope, I don't think so. Only a white man intent on suicide would do it. That goes beyond common sense into just plain stupid. I wouldn't do it today even as 'tame' as some of the groups are.

    Regardless of any bias the English have about PHF I don't think DNA would lie and that is something Villas-Boas just didn'ty have access to. If he had he might have reached a different conclusion.

    The movie is entertainment. That's all and I cannot imagine it would be taken seriously as a 'documentary' type film. I don't think we will ever know who or what killed the members of the expedition. The Amazon can swallow people, events and things up so as not to ever be known or found again. There are likely no living indigenious people living who actually saw what happened to them and physical eveidence 9bodies) has long since been reused by the biomass of the rainforest.

    No matter what Fawcett was an incredible adventurer/explorer. I can easily put him on the same level with Lewis and Clark who faced a lot of the exact same problems.

  21. Good point, Mark.
    I'm sorry I missed your comment when you originally posted it.
    I saw it only now, when I checked in to reply to Mike.

    Orlando, too, right or wrong, was a great explorer.
    I am honored to have known him.
    Sounds like you are an explorer yourself. Thank you for dropping in and giving us the benefit of your expertise.

  22. I just finished the book

    What i gathered was that there were several different accoutns of what purpotedly happened. I undertand that this book obviously is coming from slanted views.. as it was put together by Brian fawcett from ntoes and letters from PHF and his son Jack. I find it odd that Fawcet, with all his experience living in brazil during his surveying would suddenly act in such an innapropraite manner. II'd love to see the account told in the movie still, as i believe when so many different accounts contradict one another, and that the final fate of Jack, rawleigh and fawcett still have not been found. Your thoughts? please email me back with any response, as i would love to know your view...


  23. Josh,
    I've responded to your comments with a few reflections - by direct email, off list.

  24. The 3 incidents listed by Orlando are highly unlikely. With as much time as Fawcett spent with the natives he surely would not have committed such errors. He always dealt very fairly with the people.

  25. Dear Mr Leighton

    I was born in Belo Horizonte, a city very far away from the Amazon jungle, where I have never been. However, a have a partner (I am a cardiologist working with cardiac arrhythmias) who lived 3 years in Mato Grosso (close to the jungle) and worked assisting Indians in remote areas in the late 80´s. He has a number of interesting accounts about his meetings with amazonian tribes.It´s a common practice for instance, to bury crippled children alive! to avoid a lifelong disability which will endanger the tribe likelihood of survival. He needed to eat unedible soups, sometimes filled with bystanders coackroaches not to harm sensitivities... No matter specific customs and habits, behavior conduct codes were strictly followed by them. So, Villas Boas accounts on the "3" last mistakes made by PHF´s fellow crew members is for me a descent and believable explanation for their fate. Villas Boas himself was like the Kalapalos in the old version! He got himself in a postion that was not related to political networking or compromising! He was a genuine adventurer and totally engaged in getting in touch wit the different native brazilians tribes. Orlando was an Indian himself, from the tribe of ikpeng. He dedicated his entire life to the cause of native brazilian Indians (he was the driving force to the foundation of Xingu National Park) and was always critical about the influence of the white man on indian contacts. He received many awards (including the Founders medal from the Royal Geographical Society of London with yhe approval of the Queen of England). His credentials (he was nominated twice for the Nobel prize) are untouchable: so, which is the more credible account? his or an account made from someone who did a single short-lived expedition to the the amazon region ?

    Eduardo Sternick, MD
    Belo Horizonte, Brazil

  26. Hi Eduardo,

    Thank you very much for your contribution.
    I agree with you "em gênero, grau e número".

    Feliz Ano Novo.

  27. I have just read the Grann book myself, and was surprised to find your comments regarding Villas Boas. I am under the strong impression from many sources that VB's version of events has been discredited because of the incident of the 'fake bones'. The bones he tried to pass off as those of Fawcett were beyond any doubt at all those of a much smaller Indian male. This remains a fascinating subject and i am sure VB was of great help to indiginous tribes. Mark

  28. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for joining in our conversation.
    I wish Orlando was around to join in our discussion.
    And, I assure you, he would have.
    But I'm afraid I no longer have anything to add.
    May I, however, refer you to the previous comment from Eduardo Sternick?
    His position pretty much sums up mine.
    I have no explanation for the examination of those bones.
    Except for the fact that Orlando, when he discovered them, claimed they were dressed in the remnants of white-men's clothing.
    So were the bones examined in the UK the same bones?
    We'll never know.

  29. In a documentary (Lost in the Amazon:2011) about PHF it was suggested that US army deserters used to hide in those regions of Brazil and mug/murder individuals who crossed them. A much less interesting account of his death, the chap also spoke to old members of the last tribe he encountered. Their account of PHF corroborates with PHF writings in terms of his conscientious polite character.

  30. James,
    Thanks for your comment.
    I found it interesting.
    But, personally, I very much doubt that U.S. army deserters could have survived in that region, and that jungle, for very long. And where would they have been deserting from? Back in those days, there were, to my knowledge, no U.S. army installations in the country.
    And, if the guy was shooting his documentary, and doing his interviewing, shortly before 2011, I also have to ask myself how old those Indians would have to have been to have had any personal knowledge of of PHF.
    Still...anything's possible.
    And we will never really know the truth of what happened.
    Which is, I think, one of the reasons why Fawcett's disappearance continues to resonate.

  31. Hi, I realy like your comments about all this...
    I'm from Brasil, from Mato Grosso near to cerra do Roncador in the Amazon.
    I like to see how do you trust on Orlando Villas-Boas, I agree with you. this last 2 week's I have seen a movie about the 3 brother in The amazon and Orlando was a great men, I only have to say thanks to him for all. I'm Indian decendant and I know if Villas-Boas was not there I don't think that the Indians from Xingú would be there now, because the Goverment in Brasil they don't care about people, animal or whatever, they just care about the land to make money. I hate Politics and Militars. Orland was a greatttt men for this people and I believe him also about Fawcett's bones. for sure!

  32. sorry about my english, but I just want to say congratulations and I agree with you with all.

    By the away I hope you already can see the movie Xingú about Villa-Boas


  33. Hi Larissa,

    Please don't be concerned, in the least, about your English. We love it when people check-in to our blog from all over the world, and we don't care about grammar or syntax. It's the thoughts that count.
    So please write again, if you're inclined.
    On Xingu: thanks for bringing it to the attention of our readers.
    I have seen the movie, and I enjoyed it. But it's going to be tough for many people outside of Brazil to have access to it.
    I have noted, however, for those of you in the United States, that it will shortly be available via Netflix - and subscribers can already reserve it.

  34. Dear Leighton Gage.
    I really aprecciate that you liked my visit in your blog, for me is a pleasure.

    About Fawcett I'm really curious about him and after have seen the movie with Orlando and seen how good was this men, I really believe on his fact.

    I know most of the places that Fawcett has been and they are really a inspiration for a paradise or lost word, like in the movie about Indiana Jones. I believe on Fawcett and everything that he saw.

    The border of Brasil X Bolivia today being searched by some British people,they want to prove that there is the Real Lost City, instead Monte Roraima between Brasil x Venzuela. axacle where Fawcett mapped the border, all the away to Serra Ricardo Franco and Rio Verde, Wonderful places. As a Tour guide I'm lucky to know those places.
    And Also in the North of My city where it is Serra do Roncador the last place where fawcett was seen.

    I also meet some People in 2010 who made a documentary about fawcett and they try to do he's paths. this people also make me more curious, the presenter it is from England and he's in touch with Fawcett grandchildren, wich I think made him coriuos about all this history, I was jelius of him, nice guy who came to Brasil only to see with he's eyes what maybe could happened with Fawcett and the others.

    now I'm reading and surching everything about him ;-) eveen when it is english and I don't understund much, But today reading your comments I could eveen feel the conversations that you had with Orlando, nice....

    One more time Congratulations and this history will not have a solution soon, because all the mystery that makes history interesting will end. :-(

  35. Col. Fawcett would never have done any of those things, as anyone who did the slightest bit of research on him would know. His first and foremost rule when dealing with native people was to make friends and be respectful.

    More then likely Fawcett was killed by renegade soldiers for his goods.

  36. Ah, come on Anonymous. What are you going to tell us next, that his daughter Farah's hair wasn't real? Why don't you just let the poor colonel rest in pieces.

    AA, too.

  37. As I understand it, the colonel was the only experienced member, this would mean that his son Jack and Raleigh Rimell would effectively be having 'on the job' training as they went along. Is it feasible for one experienced man to supervise two effectively novice explorers every moment of an expedition? From where to urinate to how to share food?

    Also, what was the physical and mental state of the individual members at the time, that would certainly have a bearing on their conduct - and also on how much control the colonel could have on his team. Remember, also, that colonel Fawcett was 57 years old at the time and in a VERY trying, physical environment.

    These alleged three errors of judgement COULD have occurred under any combination of conditions - the colonel resting, feverish, distracted or just unable to enforce his experience upon his younger - possibly sick and tired - team members.

    Urinating in the river, pushing the Indian or hitting the child I can see these being reflexive acts of tired - possibly mentally addled - Europeans; especially given that TWO members were inexperienced.

    Oral accounts are now very long in the tooth and how reliable is ANY eye-witness anyway?

    That place can hide whole cities, physical evidence of three humans is hardly likely to be ever found.

    Without time travel, I can't see how we will ever know the truth but it is a pretty fascinating tale.

  38. Gaz:
    Good points all.
    Thank you for your contribution.

  39. Here's my opinion, some information i have gathered, other bits i speculate like you along with questions - Jack studied under his father and was only aloud to travel with him after rigorous tests by Percy himself. Firstly, he would not piss in the river, they had areas to do such business as always. This was an expedition and they were mainly venturing into unknown territory and so were under specific orders, especially because they were no longer 100% fit. This behavior is completely out of character to these men. Secondly, where is the evidence to suggest they were traveling 'up' river after visiting this tribe? This could help give an indication of location. Thirdly, they never touched any tribe members as the tribe people didn't not want to come in contact with them due to fear. If this was down to fear of illness or due to them being foreign is up to debate. Communication was one thing, physical contact another. And lastly, they would not of hung food up amongst a tribe. You suggest they ate alone, why? My opinion is they were murdered not by their own doing but by the harsh reality of life at that time and the dangers of this area. Further studies will be carried out (by many)until actual facts are surfaced! Until then we both speculate but neither of us are correct. Thanks. Sandro.

  40. Hello- we're old family friends of the Fawcett family. We worked closely with Percy's grand daughter Rolette on our 2011 PBS documentary: Lost in the Amazon. We had access to previously un-accessed documents, maps, logs from the Fawcett estate. We tracked down and found Dead Horse Camp (PH Fawcett's last reported position)- for the first time. We worked closely with the official Fawcett family biographer, and the man who discovered Fawcett's signet ring in the jungle in the 1970's. These are all new revelations. We have come up with a fascinating, psychologically complex and we believe the most accurate account of what really happened to the Fawcett party. While it may not be in line with the commonly-held beliefs/theories--we have very good evidence to back up our version of the story. I've spent the last ten years working in the Amazon on a variety of adventure/travel/wildlife programs- and I am quite certain now as to what really happened to this greatest of explorers. See a preview clip here:

    Order here:

  41. Isn't this Orlando Villas Boas the same man that was abducted by extraterrestrials. He was sexually abused by the ETs, allegedly and a small little "female" "alien" allegedly had sex with him aboard a flying saucer. The female ET allegedly was pregnant of Villas Boas. I know it sounds crazy... but I read it in a book titled Alien Contacts and Abductions written by Jenny Randles. Isn't that kinda weird. That the same man was involved in two distinct but equally disturbing and fantastic stories?

  42. Percy Fawcett was a fascinating individual, which is why I chose him to be dreamed about by the protagonist of my feminist science fiction novel, Zohu, A Land Ruled by Women. Please feel free to visit my website to read chapter 1.
    Sorry to be the 3rd "Anonymous" here, it was the only choice that made sense.

  43. Great post, and discussion, will use this in my Yr. 5 class as we try and discover the lost city of Z.

  44. The "solution" is utter garbabe, long discredited. The bones were examined by experts and apart from ethnic characteristics were far too small to have been any of the three men, all well over six feet. Fawcett did speak something of several Indian languages, including those from the region, where he'd been before, and preferred native Indians to their "civilized" cousins. After more than ten years of expeditions he had long experience of making friends with hostile tribes and respecting customs, never lifting a hand against them even under a hail of poisoned arrows. He'd carefully trained his son and his friend the same way, and what's known of Jack Fawcett's character rules out any such idiot behaviour. Villas Boas didn't meet the Xingu tribe until 1945, by which time Fawcett's disappearance was history in their terms -- they were not then very long lived -- and he was always concerned with painting any European encounter with the Indians as destructive, and the Xingu as unaggressive innocents, which they never were. This is understandable and doesn't detract from his achievements, but it makes him highly unreliable as a witness in this case. Grann, utterly inexperienced and in poor health, made one brief tourist-style visit to the region, and spun a whole fabric of rubbish out of it, as several others have done. Brad Pitt would be just what it deserves. More recently Benedict Cumberbatch has been mentioned, but he'd be too soft-looking; Fawcett looked like old leather. He was undoubtedly the model for Lord John Roxton in his friend Conan Doyle's The Lost World.

  45. Further to this, I've just found that the Villas Boas story above is not the same as the one first reported from him, and much publicized in the papers, in 1951. In that version Fawcett and co arrived at the tribe, and Jack Fawcett raped, or at least seduced, one of the chieftain's wives. Fawcett is then supposed to have demanded crews and porters, and slapped the chieftain's face when he was refused. The chieftain promptly clubbed him down, was attacked by the others and killed them too. Their bodies were thrown in the river, but Fawcett's was buried, as a mark, it was explained, of respect.
    Now the fact that the story changed somehow is good grounds for disbelieving it anyway. But on closer examination it yields a lot more. This first version depicts Fawcett as behaving like the stereotypical European colonial oppressor people were all too used to. But of course he was the opposite; he hated and despised such brutes, and so nobody who had actually known him ever believed it. Villas Boas never knew him; he was only a young boy when Fawcett disappeared. Furthermore, the story about rape is out of character with Jack Fawcett, who turned down the hedonistic life of a Hollywood actor and showed little interest in women or anyone else. But it did support the "discovery" by a confidence trickster at just that time of what was claimed to be Jack Fawcett's son -- actually an albino native, not uncommon in the region. So it was all too convenient. But later somebody, whether Villas Boas' informant or himself, seems to have found out more about the real Fawcett, and produced a second version of the story modified to fit in with his character more believeably-- making the provocation an innocent mistake. Even this, though, is unlikely, for the reasons given above, and others. Fawcett still wouldn't have slapped any native. And as to urinating upstream, in Fawcett's writings he specifically singles this out as contributing to the spread of disease in another settlement, introduced disease he knew was threatening the natives. He had a good medical knowledge of field hygiene, not least from army experience, and would have warned his followers against such behaviour. So both accounts have holes a mile wide.
    Why then were they made? It's important to remember the political background of the time. There was a strong national bias in Brazil at the time against the British as "colonial exploiters" linked to business interests that might exploit the rain forest, oil, pharmaceuticals etc -- not altogether untrue. This was one of the things the Villas Boas brothers feared most, understandably, and the story as told fitted that discreditable image all too well. If V-B didn't dream it up himself, he would have been all too ready to believe it. Once told, it couldn't easily be untold, so it got modified to fit the facts as they were made clearer. Again, VB himself may just have been retailing the rumours that reached him, and perhaps joking about them to cover up his mistake -- rather a Brazilian way of handling embarrassment. He was still a great man, but even great men have weaknesses.

  46. I knew Fawsett's younger son when I was a child living in Keswick during the 1950s. He played the bassoon in the local amateur orchestra where my father played the cello. At the time I wasn't too interested, but now I wish I'd taken more notice!!!!taken

  47. Years later...(2018)...what appears clear is that those "fresh" on the trail of Percy Fawcett, in unrelated expeditions, were told by the Kalapalo Indians that Fawcett had been killed by the tribe. In the legal field, those statements, even if hearsay, have great legal significance and are admissible. The number of these accounts also carries significant weight.

    In nosing about, it also became clear that the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) also believes the Kalapalo killed Percy Fawcett. The "whys" may be more difficult to determine, but once again, Doyle, Boas and the RGS all come down with "insult" being the likely cause, with that determination made at a much more proximate time to the event.

    Death by Misadventure!

  48. I feel one of his party disrespected the Kalapalo Indians traditions in some way shape or form. But then I thought this makes no sense. I think only speculation that he and his party went further east and were murdered by a hostile tribe.

  49. You are correct in your first account of what my or may have not happened.