Many of you have grown up with fictional characters like Indiana Jones. Swashbuckling tales of danger in search of lost cities. There was a time when such adventures weren’t the realm fiction.
In the last decades of the heyday of exploring the last wilds of the Earth, Colonel Percy Fawcett led an expedition into the Amazon to search for the fabled Lost City of Z.
He was never seen again.
Decades of rumors of his fate ensued. Had he found the lost city? Was he living among the natives? Had he succumbed to the jungle many years before? David Grann takes us on a tour of Fawcett’s obsession in The Lost City of Z, in part by heading into the jungle himself following the footsteps of the lost explorer.
But Fawcett wasn’t the only one. Theodore Morde had claimed he had found the lost White City in Honduras. He never returned to explore his find and may have tried to obscure its location to dissuade others. Christopher S. Stewart dives into this man’s life in Jungleland. He too goes to the jungle and tries to locate Morde’s discovery and, perhaps, what haunted him to the end.
Then there was Hiram Bingham who discovered the legendary mountaintop city of Machu Picchu. This site was not lost and has become an iconic wonder of the Mesoamerican past. Christopher Heaney chronicles Bingham’s quest in Cradle of Gold. The classic journey of that era that has impacted history decades later to our time. Its forgotten history of a sprawling empire is still being revealed. And Machu Picchu has become the prime example of the need to return artifacts to their rightful nations that were acquired (not always honestly) during the age of relic hunting.
These books are windows into the bygone era of journeys into the unknown. Sometimes driven by fame or fortune, discovery or quest of knowledge, the explorers were nearly the last of their kind. Perhaps those who have left Earth into space are our only successors to them.
In any case, there are still discoveries to be made on our world; jungles that still cling to their secrets and can make men vanish in an eye blink. We are desperately in need of a generation that takes mankind’s history seriously while looking forward and are willing to explore new frontiers and push us beyond new thresholds.
Ignoring history, not seeing past tomorrow and thinking a new phone is “innovation” just doesn’t cut it.