A plaque will be unveiled at Torquay Museum on Wednesday 31st August dedicated to one of the world’s most renowned explorers, Percy Fawcett, who was born in Torquay and whose remarkable life is the subject of a Hollywood film produced by Brad Pitt and due for release at the end of 2016.
Lieutenant‐Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett was an artillery officer, archaeologist and South American explorer who disappeared in unexplained circumstances in the uncharted jungles of Brazil in 1925 during an expedition searching for an ancient lost city, referred to by Spanish conquistadors as ‘El Dorado’, and built by a mythical civilisation.
Fawcett had become convinced, through reading ancient legends and historical records, that the Lost City of Z, as he named it, must lie somewhere in the Matto Grosso region of Brazil. It was here in 1925 that he disappeared with his son Jack and best friend Raleigh Rimmell. Nothing more was heard from the three men after journeying deep into the jungle and dismissing their native guides on 29th May 1925.
During the following decades, various searches, including two led by Fawcett’s youngest son Brian, were unsuccessfully mounted to trace the missing explorers. It is estimated that 100 would‐be‐rescuers died in more than thirteen expeditions sent to discover Fawcett’s fate. Rumours emerged that Fawcett’s party had been killed by cannibals.
Percy Fawcett was the inspiration for a number of fictional explorers. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle acknowledged that his friend Fawcett was the inspiration for the character Professor Challenger in his novel The Lost World (1912). The first of several film adaptations of the book starred Wallace Beery and was produced for the silent screen during the year that Fawcett disappeared in 1925. Percy Fawcett has also been proposed as the main inspiration for the hero of the hugely successful Indiana Jones films starring Harrison Ford.
Some of the personal possessions of Percy Fawcett are displayed in Torquay Museum’s Explorers Gallery, along with an account of his life and explorations. The Explorers Gallery showcases the incredible journeys made by Torquay’s famous explorers, from the frozen wastes of the Antarctic to the depths of the Brazilian rainforest, featuring wonderful artefacts from ancient Egypt, including Devon’s only Mummy.
Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt’s Hollywood movie, entitled The Lost World of Z and starring Charlie Hunnam and Sienna Miller as Percy and Nina Fawcett, is due for release at the end of 2016. The film is based on David Grann’s 2009 best‐selling book of the same name.