Fawcett, however, was convinced that the Amazon wilderness – an area virtually the size of the continental United States – concealed the remnants of at least one, and probably more, highly advanced civilizations. He was the last of a breed of explorers to venture into blank spots on the map with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose, and he spent nearly two decades gathering evidence to prove his case and pinpointing a location. With his 21-year-old son, Jack, and Jack’s best friend, Raleigh Rimell, Fawcett finally set off into the Brazilian jungle to find the City of Z. Then he and his party vanished, giving rise to what has been described as “the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century.” Fawcett had warned that no one should follow in his wake due to the danger, but scores of scientists, explorers, and adventurers plunged into the wilderness, determined to recover the Fawcett party, alive or dead, and to return with proof of Z. In February 1955, the New York Times claimed that Fawcett’s disappearance had set off more searches “than those launched through the centuries to find the fabulous El Dorado.” Some were wiped out by starvation and disease, or retreated in despair; others were murdered by tribesmen firing arrows dipped in poison. Then there were those adventurers who had gone to find Fawcett and, like him, simply disappeared in the forests that travelers had long ago christened the “green hell.”
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