The train creaked toward the frontier. On February 11, 1925, Fawcett, Jack, and Raleigh had left Rio de Janeiro on their more than one-thousand-mile journey into the interior of Brazil. In Rio, they had stayed in the Hotel Internacional, where they tested their equipment in the garden and where virtually everything they did was chroni cled in newspapers around the world. “At least forty million people [are] already aware of our objective,” Fawcett wrote his son Brian, reveling in the “tremendous” publicity.
There were photographs of the explorers with headlines like “Three Men Face Cannibals in Relic Quest.” One article said, “No Olympic games contender was ever trained down to a finer edge than these three reserved, matter-of-fact Englishmen, whose pathway to a forgotten world is beset by arrows, pestilence and wild beasts.”
“Aren’t the reports of the expedition in the English and American papers amusing?” Jack wrote his brother.
Brazilian authorities, fearing the demise of such an illustrious party on their territory, demanded that Fawcett sign a statement absolving them of responsibility, which he did without hesitation. “They do not want to be pressed… if we do not turn up,” Fawcett told Keltie. “But we shall all turn up all right-even if it is just about as much as my fifty-eight years can put up with.” Despite such concerns, the government and its citizens warmly received the explorers: the party would be given free transport to the frontier in railroad cars reserved for dignitaries-luxurious carriages with private baths and saloons. “We have met with unbounded sympathy and goodwill,” Fawcett informed the RGS.
Raleigh seemed somewhat dispirited, though. On the voyage from New York, he had fallen in love, apparently with the daughter of a British duke. “I became acquainted with a certain girl on board, and as time went on our friendship increased till I admit it was threatening to get serious,” he confessed in a letter to Brian Fawcett. He wanted to tell Jack about his turbulent emotions, but his best friend, who had become even more priestly while training for the expedition, complained that he was making “a fool of himself.” Whereas before Raleigh had been intently focused on his adventure with Jack, now all he could think about was this
“[The colonel] and Jack were getting quite anxious, afraid I should elope or something!” Raleigh wrote. Indeed, Raleigh contemplated getting married in Rio, but Fawcett and Jack dissuaded him. “I came to my senses and realized I was supposed to be the member of an expedition, and not allowed to take a wife along,” Raleigh said. “I had to drop her gently and attend to business.”
“[Raleigh] is much better now,” Jack wrote. Still, he worriedly asked Raleigh, “I suppose after we get back you’ll be married within a year?”
Raleigh replied that he wouldn’t make any promises, but, as he later put it, “I don’t intend to be a bachelor all my life, even if Jack does!”
The three explorers stopped for a few days in S?o Paulo and went to visit the Instituto Butantan, one of the largest snake farms in the world. The staff carried out a series of demonstrations for the explorers, showing how various predators strike. At one point, an attendant reached into a cage with a long hook and removed a lethal bushmaster, while Jack and Raleigh stared at its fangs. “A whole lot of venom squirted out,” Jack later wrote his brother. Fawcett was familiar with Amazonian snakes, but he still found the demonstrations enlightening, and he shared his notes in one of his dispatches for the North American Newspaper Alliance. (“A snake-bite which bleeds is nonpoisonous. Two punctures, plus a bluish and bloodless patch, is a sign of poison.”)
Before leaving, Fawcett was handed what he most wanted: five years’ worth of anti-snakebite serums, stored in vials marked “rattlesnakes,” “pit vipers,” and “unknown” species. He also received a hypodermic needle to inject them.
After local officials in S?o Paulo gave the explorers what Jack described as “a fine send-off,” the three Englishmen again boarded a train, heading west toward the Paraguay River, along the border of Brazil and Bolivia. Fawcett had made the same trip in 1920, with Holt and Brown, and the familiar vista only intensified his chronic impatience. As sparks flew up from the rails, Jack and Raleigh looked out the window, watching the swamps and scrub forest pass, imagining what they would soon encounter. “I saw some quite interesting things,” Jack wrote. “In the cattle country were numerous parrots, and we saw two flocks… of young rheas [ostrichlike birds] about four to five feet high. There was a glimpse of a spider’s web in a tree, with a spider about the size of a sparrow sitting in the middle.” Spotting alligators on the banks, he and Raleigh grabbed their rifles and tried to shoot them from the moving train.
The immensity of the landscape awed Jack, who occasionally sketched what he saw as if to help him comprehend it, a habitingrained in him by his father. In a week, the men reached Corumb?, a frontier town near the Bolivian border, not far from where Fawcett had carried out much of his early exploration. This marked the end of the railroad line and the explorers’ lavish accommodations, and that night they stayed in a squalid hotel. “The lavatory arrangements here are very primitive,” Jack wrote his mother. “The combined [bathroom] and shower-room is so filthy that one must be careful where one treads; but Daddy says we must expect much worse in Cuyaba.”
Jack and Raleigh heard a commotion outside the hotel and saw, in the moonlight, figures parading up and down the city’s only good road, singing and dancing. It was the last night of Carnival. Raleigh, who liked to stay out late drinking “several excellent cocktails,” joined in the revelry. “I am now by the way quite an enthusiastic dancer,” he had earlier informed his brother. “You will probably think me reckless, eh, but still I figured I would have very few chances to dissipate in the next 20 months or so.”
On February 23, Fawcett told Jack and Raleigh to load their equipment onto the
In the evenings, the temperature dropped sharply, and the explorers slept in extra shirts, trousers, and socks. They decided not to shave, and their faces were soon covered with stubble. Jack thought Raleigh looked like “a desperate villain, such as you see in Western thrillers on the movies.”
As the boat turned onto the S?o Louren?o River and then onto the Cuiab? River, the young men were introduced to the spectrum of Amazonian insects. “On Wednesday night they came aboard in clouds,” Jack wrote. “The roof of the place where we eat and sleep was black-literally black-with them! We had to sleep with shirts drawn over our heads, leaving no breathing-hole, our feet wrapped in another shirt, and a mackintosh over the body. Termite ants were another pest. They invaded us for about a couple of hours, fluttering round the lamps till their wings dropped off, and then wriggling over floor and table in their millions.” Raleigh insisted that the mosquitoes were “almost big enough to hold you down.”
On March 3, eight days after leaving Corumb?, the
Fawcett wrote that they had reached the “stepping off point” into the jungle and were waiting several weeks for the rainy season to let up for “the attainment of the great purpose.” Although Fawcett hated to linger, he didn’t dare leave before the dry season had arrived, as he had done disastrously in 1920 with Holt. And there were still things to do-provisions to be collected and maps to be pored over. Jack and Raleigh tried to break in their new boots by trekking through the surrounding bush. “Raleigh’s feet are covered with patches of Johnson’s plaster, but he is keener than ever now [that] we are nearing the day of departure,” Jack said. They carried their rifles and set up target practice, shooting at objects as if they were jaguars or monkeys. Fawcett had warned them to conserve ammunition, yet they were so excited that they spent twenty cartridges on their first attempt. “[What] a hell of a row!” Jack exclaimed of the noise.
Raleigh boasted that he was a fine shot-“even if I do say so myself.”
During meals, the young men consumed additional portions. Jack even broke his vegetarian edict, eating chicken and beef. “We are feeding up now,” he told his mother, “and I hope to put on ten pounds before leaving, as we need extra flesh to carry us over hungry periods during the expedition.”
An American missionary who was staying in Cuiab? had several issues of
Rather than confronting their own reservoirs of courage, Jack and Raleigh seemed to prefer to dwell on what they would do after they returned from the expedition. They were sure that the journey would make them rich and famous, but their fantasies remained more those of boys than of men. “We intend to buy motor-cycles and really enjoy a good holiday in Devon, looking up all our friends and visiting the old haunts,” Jack said.
One morning they went with Fawcett to purchase pack animals from a local rancher. Though Fawcett complained that he was “cheated” over everything, he acquired four horses and eight donkeys. “The horses being fairly good, but the mules very ‘fraco’ (weak),” Jack said in a letter home, showing off his newest Portuguese word. Jack and Raleigh immediately gave the animals names: an obstinate mule was Gertrude; another, with a bullet-shaped head, was Dumdum; and a third, forlorn-looking animal was Sorehead. Fawcett also obtained a pair of hunting dogs that were, as he put it, “rejoicing in the names of Pastor and Chulim.”
By then, nearly everyone in the remote capital had heard of the famous Englishmen. Some inhabitants regaled Fawcett with legends of hidden cities. One man said that he had recently brought an Indian from the jungle who, upon seeing the churches in Cuiab?, remarked, “This is nothing, in my forest are buildings bigger and loftier by far than this. They have doors and windows of stone. The inside is lit by a great square crystal on a pillar. It shines so brightly as to dazzle the eyes.”
Fawcett was grateful for any visions, however preposterous, that might confirm his own. “I have seen no reason to budge a hair’s breadth” from the theory of Z, he wrote Nina.
AROUND THIS TIME, Fawcett heard the first news of Dr. Rice’s expedition. For several weeks, there had been no reports of the party, which had been exploring a tributary of the Rio Branco, about twelve hundred miles north of Cuiab?. Many feared that the men had vanished. Then an amateur radio operator in Caterham, England, picked up on his wireless receiver Morse signals coming from deep in the Amazon. The operator jotted down the message:
Progress slow, owing to extremely difficult physical conditions. Personnel expedition numbers over fifty. Unable use hydroplane at present due low water, objects expedition being attained. All well. This message sent by expedition’s own wireless. Rice.
Another message reported that Dr. Theodor Koch-Gr?nberg, the noted anthropologist with the party, had contracted malarial fever and had died. Dr. Rice announced on the wireless that he was about to deploy the hydroplane, although it had to be swept clean of ants and termites and spi-derwebs, which covered the control panel and cockpit like volcanic ash.
The men worried what would happen if they had to land in an emergency. Albert William Stevens, a noted balloonist and the expedition’s aerial photographer, told the RGS, “If not over a waterway, parachuting would be advisable before the plane crashed in the massive trees of the forest; the only hope of the flyers would then be to find the wreck of their craft, and secure food. With machete and compass, they could perhaps cut their way to the nearest river, build a raft, and escape. A broken arm or leg would mean certain death, of course.”
Finally, the men filled the tank with fuel-enough for about four hours-and three members of the expedition boarded the plane; the pilot started the propeller, and the machine roared down the river, hurtling into the sky. Stevens described the explorers’ first vision of the jungle from five thousand feet up:
The palms below, scattered through the forest, looked like hundreds of star-fish at the bottom of an ocean… Except for the spirals, blankets, and clouds of mist-like emanations ascending from numerous hidden streams of water, there was nothing in sight but the sombre, seemingly endless forest, premonitory in its silence and vastness.
Usually, the pilot and one other member of the party would fly for about three hours each morning, before the rising temperature outside might cause the engine to overheat. Over several weeks, Dr. Rice and his team surveyed thousands of square miles of the Amazon-an amount inconceivable on foot or even by boat. The men discovered, among other things, that the Parima and the Orinoco rivers did not, as had been suspected, share the same source.
Once, the pilot thought he saw something moving between the trees and dived toward the canopy. There was a cluster of “white” Yanomami Indians. When the plane landed, Dr. Rice tried to establish contact, offering the Indians beads and handkerchiefs; unlike on his previous expedition, the tribesmen accepted his overtures. After spending several hours with the tribe, Dr. Rice and his party began leaving the jungle. The RGS asked the Caterham operator to convey “the congratulations and good wishes of the Society.”
The expedition, despite the unfortunate death of Koch-Gr?nberg, was a historic achievement. In addition to the cartographic discoveries, it had shifted the human vantage point in the Amazon from below the canopy to above, tilting the balance of power that had always favored the jungle over its trespassers. “Those regions where the natives are so hostile or the physical obstacles so great as to effectually bar” entering on foot, Dr. Rice declared, “the airplane passes over easily and quickly.” Moreover, the wireless radio had allowed him to keep in contact with the outside world. (“The Brazilian jungle has ceased to be lonely,” the
To Fawcett, though, there was only one piece of news that mattered: his rival had not found Z.
BOUNDING OUT OF the hotel one April morning, Fawcett felt the blazing sun on his face. The dry season had arrived. After nightfall on April 19, he led Raleigh and Jack through the city, where outlaws carrying Winchester.44 rifles often lingered in the doorways of dimly lit canti nas. Bandits had earlier attacked a group of diamond prospectors staying in the same hotel as Fawcett and his party. “[A prospector] and one of the bandits were killed, and two others seriously wounded,” Jack told his mother. “The police went to work on the case after a few days, and over a cup of coffee asked the murderers why they did it! Nothing more has happened.”
The explorers stopped at the house of John Ahrens, a German diplomat in the region whom they had befriended. Ahrens offered his guests tea and biscuits. Fawcett asked the diplomat if he would relay to Nina and the rest of the world any letters or other news from the expedition that emerged from the jungle. Ahrens indicated that he was pleased to do so, and he later wrote Nina to say that her husband’s conversations about Z were so rare and interesting that he had never been happier.
The next morning, under Fawcett’s watchful eye, Jack and Raleigh put on their explorer outfits, including lightweight, tear-proof pants and Stetsons. They loaded their.30-caliber rifles and armed themselves with eighteen-inch machetes, which Fawcett had had designed by the best steelmaker in England. A report sent out by NANA was headlined “Unique Outfit for Explorer… Product of Years’ Experience in Jungle Research. Weight of Utensils Reduced to Last Ounce.”
Fawcett hired two native porters and guides to accompany the expedition until the more dangerous terrain, about a hundred miles north. On April 20, a crowd gathered to see the party off. At the crack of whips, the caravan jolted forward, Jack and Raleigh as proud as could be. Ahrens accompanied the explorers for about an hour on his own horse. Then, as he told Nina, he watched them march northward “into a world so far completely uncivilised and unknown by people.”
The expedition crossed the
By twilight, they had trekked seven miles, and Fawcett signaled to set up camp. Jack and Raleigh learned that this meant a race, before darkness enveloped them and the mosquitoes devoured their flesh, to string their hammocks, clean their cuts to prevent infections, collect firewood, and secure the pack animals. Dinner was sardines, rice, and biscuits-a feast compared with what they would eat once they had to survive off the land.
That night, as they slept in their hammocks, Raleigh felt something brushing against him. He awoke in a panic, as if he were being attacked by a jaguar, but it was only one of the mules, which had broken free. After he tied it up, he tried to fall asleep again, but before long dawn broke and Fawcett was shouting for everyone to move out, each person wolfing down a bowl of porridge and half a cup of condensed milk, his rations until supper; then the men were off again, racing to keep up with their leader.
Fawcett increased the pace from seven miles a day to ten miles, then to fifteen. One afternoon, as the explorers approached the Manso River, some forty miles north of Cuiab?, the rest of the expedition became separated from Fawcett. As Jack later wrote to his mother, “Daddy had gone on ahead at such a speed that we lost sight of him altogether.” It was just as Costin had feared: there was no one to stop Fawcett. The trail forked, and the Brazilian guides didn’t know which way Fawcett had turned. Eventually, Jack noticed indentations from hooves on one of the trails, and gave the order to follow them. Darkness was descending, and the men had to be careful not to lose each other as well. They could hear a sustained roar in the distance. With each step it grew louder, and suddenly the men discerned the rush of water. They had reached the Manso River. Still, Fawcett was nowhere to be found. Jack, assuming command of the party, told Raleigh and one of the guides to fire their rifles in the air. There was no reply.
Jack and Raleigh hung their hammocks and made a fire, fearing that Fawcett had been seized by the Kayap? Indians, who inserted large round disks in their lower lips and attacked their enemies with wooden clubs. The Brazilian guides, who recalled vivid accounts of Indian raids, did nothing to calm Jack’s and Raleigh’s nerves. The men lay awake, listening to the jungle. When the sun rose, Jack ordered everyone to fire more gunshots and to search the surrounding area. Then, as the explorers were eating breakfast, Fawcett appeared on his horse. While looking for rock paintings, he had lost track of the group and had slept on the ground, using his saddle for a pillow. When Nina heard what had happened, she feared how “anxious” they all must have been. She had received a photograph of Jack looking unusually somber, which she had shown to Large. “[Jack] has evidently been thinking about the big job before him,” Large told her. She noted later that Jack’s pride would keep him going, for he would say to himself, “My father chose me for this.”
Fawcett let the expedition remain in camp another day to recover from the ordeal. Huddling under his mosquito net, he composed his dispatches, which from that point on would be “relayed to civilization by Indian runners over a long and perilous route,” as editors’ notes later explained.
Fawcett described the area as “the tickiest place in the world;” the insects swarmed over everything, like black rain. Several bit Raleigh on his foot, and the irritated flesh became infected-“poisoned,” in Jack’s phrase. As they pressed on the next day, Raleigh grew more and more gloomy. “It is a saying that one only knows a man well when in the wilds with him,” Fawcett told Nina. “Raleigh in place of being gay and energetic, is sleepy and silent.”
Jack, in contrast, was gaining in ardor. Nina was right: he seemed to have inherited Fawcett’s freakish constitution. Jack wrote that he had packed on several pounds of muscle, “in spite of far less food. Raleigh has lost more than I gained, and it is he who seems to feel most the effects of the journey.”
Upon hearing about Jack from her husband, Nina told Large, “I think you will rejoice with me in the knowledge that Jack is turning out so capable, and keeping strong and well. I can see his father is very pleased with him, and needless to say
Because of Raleigh’s condition and the weakened animals, Fawcett, who was more careful not to get too far ahead again, stopped for several days at a cattle-breeding ranch owned by Hermenegildo Galv?o, one of the most ruthless farmers in Mato Grosso. Galv?o had pushed farther into the frontier than most Brazilians and reportedly had a posse of
For several days, the explorers remained there, eating and resting. Galv?o was curious about what had lured the Englishmen into such wilderness. As Fawcett described his vision of Z, he removed from his belongings a strange object covered in cloth. He carefully unwrapped it, revealing the stone idol Haggard had given to him. He carried it with him like a talisman.
The three Englishmen were soon on their way again, heading east, toward Bakair? Post, where in 1920 the Brazilian government had set up a garrison-“the last point of civilization,” as the settlers referred to it. Occasionally, the forest opened up, and they could see the blinding sun and blue-tinged mountains in the distance. The trail became more difficult, and the men descended steep, mud-slicked gorges and traversed rock-strewn rapids. One river was too dangerous for the animals to swim across with the cargo. Fawcett noticed a canoe, abandoned, on the opposite bank and said that the expedition could use it to transport the gear, but that someone would need to swim over and get it-a feat involving, as Fawcett put it, “considerable danger, being made worse by a sudden violent thunderstorm.”
Jack volunteered and began to strip. Though he later admitted that he was “scared stiff,” he checked his body for cuts that might attract piranhas and dived in, thrashing his arms and legs as the currents tossed him about. When he emerged on the opposite bank, he climbed in the canoe and paddled back across-his father greeting him proudly.
A month after the explorers left Cuiab?, and after what Fawcett described as “a test of patience and endurance for the greater trials” ahead, the men arrived at Bakair? Post. The settlement consisted of about twenty ramshackle huts, cordoned off by barbed wire, to protect against aggressive tribes. (Three years later, another explorer described the outpost as “a pinprick on the map: isolated, desolate, primitive and God forsaken.”) The Bakair? tribe was one of the first in the region that the government had tried to “acculturate,” and Fawcett was appalled by what he called “the Brazilian methods of civilizing the Indian tribes.” In a letter to one of his sponsors in the United States, he noted, “The Bakair?s have been dying out ever since they became civilized. There are only about 150 of them.” He went on, “They have in part been brought here to plant rice, manioc… which is sent to Cuiab?, where it fetches, at present, high prices. The Bakair?s are not paid, are raggedly clothed, mainly in khaki govt. uniforms, and there is a general squalor and lack of hygiene which is making the whole of them sick.”
Fawcett was informed that a Bakair? girl had recently fallen ill. He often tried to treat the natives with his medical kit, but, unlike Dr. Rice, his knowledge was limited, and there was nothing he could do to save her. “They say the Bacairys are dying off on account of fetish [witchcraft], for there is a fetish man in the village who hates them,” Jack wrote. “Only yesterday a little girl died-of fetish, they say!”
The Brazilian in charge of the post, Valdemira, put the explorers up in the newly constructed schoolhouse. The men soaked themselves in the river, washing away the grime and sweat. “We have all clipped our beards, and feel better without them,” Jack said.
Members of other remote tribes occasionally visited Bakair? Post to obtain goods, and Jack and Raleigh soon saw something that astonished them: “about eight wild Indians, absolutely stark naked,” as Jack wrote to his mother. The Indians carried seven-foot-long bows with six-foot arrows. “To Jack’s great delight we have seen the first of the wild Indians here-naked savages from the Xingu,” Fawcett wrote Nina.
Jack and Raleigh hurried out to meet them. “We gave them some guava cheese,” Jack wrote, and “they liked it immensely.”
Jack tried to conduct a rudimentary
Raleigh, whom Fawcett had designated as the expedition’s photographer, set up a camera and took pictures of the Indians. In one shot, Jack stood beside them, to demonstrate “the comparative sizes;” the Indians came up to his shoulders.
In the evening, the three explorers went to the mud hut where the Indians were staying. The only light inside was from a fire, and the air was filled with smoke. Fawcett unpacked a ukulele and Jack took out a piccolo that they had brought from England. (Fawcett told Nina that “music was a great comfort ‘in the wilds,’ and might even save a solitary man from insanity.”) As the Indians gathered around them, Jack and Fawcett played a concert late into the night, the sounds wafting through the village.
On May 19, a fresh, cool day, Jack woke up exhilarated-it was his twenty-second birthday. “I have never felt so well,” he wrote to his mother. For the occasion, Fawcett dropped his prohibition against liquor, and the three explorers celebrated with a bottle of Brazilian-made alcohol. The next morning, they prepared the equipment and the pack animals. To the north of the post, the men could see several imposing mountains and the jungle. It was, Jack wrote, “absolutely unexplored country.”
The expedition headed straight for terra incognita. Before them were no clear paths, and little light filtered through the canopy. They struggled to see not just in front of them but above them, where most predators lurked. The men’s feet sank in mud holes. Their hands burned from wielding machetes. Their skin bled from mosquitoes. Even Fawcett confessed to Nina, “Years tell, in spite of the spirit of enthusiasm.”
Although Raleigh’s foot had healed, his other one became infected, and when he removed his sock a large patch of skin peeled off. He seemed to be unraveling; he had already suffered from jaundice, his arm was swollen, and he felt, as he put it, “bilious.”
Like his father, Jack was prone to contempt for others’ frailty, and complained to his mother that his friend was unable to share his burden of work-he rode on a horse, with his shoe off-and that he was always scared and sullen.
The jungle widened the fissures that had been evident since Raleigh’s romance on the boat. Raleigh, overwhelmed by the insects, the heat, and the pain in his foot, lost interest in “the Quest.” He no longer thought about returning as a hero: all he wanted, he muttered, was to open a small business and to settle down with a family. (“The Fawcetts can have all my share of the notoriety and be welcome to it!” he wrote his brother.) When Jack talked of the archaeological importance of Z, Raleigh shrugged and said, “That’s too deep for me.”
“I wish [Raleigh] had more brains, as I cannot discuss any of this with him as he knows nothing of anything,” Jack wrote. “We can only converse about Los Angeles or Seaton. What he will do during a year at ‘Z’ I don’t know.”
“I wish to
After nine days, the explorers hacked their way to Dead Horse Camp, where the men could still see the “white bones” from Fawcett’s old pack animal. The men were approaching the territory of the warlike Suy?s and Kayap?s. An Indian once described to a reporter a Kayap? ambush of his tribe. He and a few other villagers, the reporter wrote, fled across a river and “witnessed throughout the night the macabre dance of their en emies around their slaughtered brothers.” For three days, the invaders remained, playing wooden flutes and dancing among the corpses. After the Kayap?s finally departed, the few villagers who had escaped across the river rushed back to their settlement: not a single person was alive. “The women, who they thought would have been spared, lay face up, their lifeless bodies in an advanced state of putrefaction, their legs spread apart by wooden struts forced between the knees.” In a dispatch, Fawcett described the Kayap?s as an aggressive “lot of stick-throwers who cut off and kill wandering indi viduals… Their only weapon is a short club like a policeman’s billy”-which, he added, they deploy very skillfully.
After passing through the territory of the Suy?s and Kayap?s, the expedition would turn eastward and confront the Xavante, who were perhaps even more formidable. In the late eighteenth century, many in the tribe had been contacted by the Portuguese and moved into villages, where they received mass baptisms. Devastated by epidemics and brutalized by Brazilian soldiers, they eventually fled back into the jungle near the River of Death. A nineteenth-century German traveler wrote that “from that time onwards [the Xavante] no longer trusted any white man… These abused people have therefore changed from compatriots into the most dangerous and determined enemies. They generally kill anyone they can easily catch.” Several years after Fawcett’s journey, members of the Indian Protection Service tried to make contact with the Xavante, only to return to their base camp and discover the naked corpses of four of their colleagues. One was still clutching in his hand gifts for the Indians.
In spite of the risks, Fawcett was confident-after all, he had always succeeded where others failed. “It is obviously dangerous to penetrate large hordes of Indians traditionally hostile,” he wrote, “but I believe in my mission and in its purpose. The rest does not worry me, for I have seen a good deal of Indians and know what to do and what not to do.” He added, “I believe our little party of three white men will make friends with them all.”
The guides, who were already feverish, were reluctant to go any farther, and Fawcett decided that the time had come to send them back. He selected half a dozen or so of the strongest animals to keep for a few more days. Then the explorers would have to proceed with their few provisions on their backs.
Fawcett pulled Raleigh aside and encouraged him to return with the guides. As Fawcett had written to Nina, “I suspect constitutional weakness, and fear that we shall be handicapped by him.” After this point, Fawcett explained, there would be no way to carry him out. Raleigh insisted that he would see it through. Perhaps he remained loyal to Jack, in spite of everything. Perhaps he didn’t want to be seen as a coward. Or perhaps he was simply afraid to turn back without them.
Fawcett finished his last letters and dispatches. He wrote that he would try to get out other communiqu?s in the coming year or so, but added that it was unlikely. As he noted in one of his final articles, “By the time this dispatch is printed, we shall have long since disappeared into the unknown.”
After folding up his missives, Fawcett gave them to the guides. Raleigh had earlier written to his “dearest Mother” and family. “I shall look forward to seeing you again in old Cal when I return,” he said. And he told his brother bravely, “Keep cheerful and things will turn up alright as they have for me.”
The explorers gave a final wave to the Brazilians, then turned and headed deeper into the jungle. In his last words to his wife, Fawcett wrote, “You need have no fear of any failure.”