Thursday, February 05, 2015

"The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon" by David Grann

Science Friday's Book Club read for January 2015 is David Grann's book, "The Lost City of Z." Those of you lucky enough to be in the New York City area can get a ticket to join Sci Fri's live discussion of the book with the author at The Explorer's Club in Manhattan. The event is scheduled for February 5, and tickets are only $20. Wish I could be there!

I don't know why, because I'm not particularly adventuresome, but I'm a sucker for stories of exploration. Lewis and Clark, Drake's circumnavigation of the globe, Shackleton, Stanley and Livingstone -- I love books and films about all of them and their ilk. I've read "River of Doubt," about Theodore Roosevelt's Amazon journey, and enjoyed Werner Herzog's film "Aguirre, the Wrath of God." From the latter two vicarious adventures, I learned a healthy respect for the lethality of Amazon exploration, but I had never heard of Fawsett or his efforts to explore and map the Amazon basin.

"The Lost City of Z" tells the story of Amazon Explorer Percy Fawsett, starting with his background and following his career up until the disappearance of his entire expedition during a 1925 attempt to locate the site of a fabled ancient civilization. Fawsett's story is interwoven with that of author David Grann's quest to trace Fawsett's path as well as tell the tales of other rescue missions -- which also had a tendency to disappear never to be seen again.

I haven't finished the book yet, but I've been quite enjoying it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of exploration, or intrigued by the story of a real life "Indiana Jones." The tale of an expedition lost while seeking a mythical landmark has Amazonian parallels to Franklin's lost voyage to find the Northwest Passage -- a disappearance which also defied many attempts to discover the voyagers' fate until just recently.

Since I don't yet know whether Grann met with any success in finding Fawsett's remains -- though clearly he made it home to write the book! -- I may skip tomorrow's broadcast until I've finished. It will be podcast and available "within 3 hours after it airs."

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