What Fate befell the Fawcett Expedition?

The last sign of Fawcett was on May 29, 1925 when he telegraphed his wife that he was ready to go into unexplored territory with Jack and Raleigh Rimmell. They were reported to be crossing the Upper Xingu, a south-eastern tributary of the Amazon River. They would be entering the domain of hostile indians that would certainly have included tribes of cannibals. The Fawcett expedition was not expected back until 1927, and when they failed to reappear out of the jungle it caught the public's attention and the newspapers soon started speculation on what could have happened to them.

As to be expected, fingers were pointed at the local tribes of Indians, some said it was they who had killed them. Several tribes being named at the time included the Kalapalos Indians who last saw them at Dead Horse Camp, their last known position, also the Arumás, Suyás, or Xavantes tribes whose territory they were entering. Both of the younger men were lame and ill when last seen, and without any proof one way or the other, we cannot be certain if they were murdered or died of natural causes in the Amazon jungle.

Despite the colonel's wishes that no one should come looking for them if they failed to return, more than a dozen expeditions have subsequently set out to discover their, allegedly claiming the lives of a hundred men. It seemed, for some, looking for Fawcett became an obsession, even a profession of sorts, offering exactly the type of adventure the colonel himself found so addictive. And there was commercial gain to be had too, whether in the form of book deals and newspaper articles for those leading rescue parties, or rewards for those Indians willing to reveal evidence, however spurious, of the lost expedition.

Although all of the expeditions into the jungle to try and find out what happened to the Fawcett team, failed to find out any information, a couple of Fawcett's possessions were found.

1 - In 1927, a nameplate from one of Fawcett's cases was seen hanging around the neck of an indian like a piece of jewellery

2 - In June 1933, a theodolite compass belonging to Fawcett was found near the Baciary Indians of Matto Grosso by Colonel Aniceto Botelho. But this may have been abandoned during an earlier expedition.

There are only a few options that we have to chose from on how they died:

Disease or ill health

Killed by Indians

Killed by wild animals or one of the many poisonous creatures or insects that dwell in the Amazon

Lack of supplies

George Miller Dyott -The first major rescue party set out a year later in earnest, led by Commander George Miller Dyott, a man familiar with the Brazilian hinterland. Despite being dubbed The Suicide Club it attracted a huge number of volunteers out looking for adventure. Dyott picked up Fawcett s trail in Bakari, and followed it across the wilderness of Central Brazil and into the Amazon forest. He was eventually driven back by hostile Indians and lack of supplies. From what he could glean from the local Kalapolo tribe, and the discovery of a nameplate bearing Fawcett s name around the neck of an Indian, he surmised the colonel and the others had most likely been massacred, as detailed in Dyott's book Man Hunting in the Jungle Being the Story of a Search for Three Explorers Lost in the Brazilian Wilds (1930) (filmed later as Manhunt in the Jungle (1958)). Though Dyott claimed he had found evidence of Fawcett's death at the hands of the Aloique Indians, the strength of his story soon began to unravel.

Hugh McCarthy - In 1947 a New Zealand schoolteacher by the name of Hugh McCarthy, quit his job and went in search of Fawcett s lost city of gold using carrier pigeons giving news of his progress. The last related not only details of his imminent death but also made reference to an earlier communication giving the exact location of thecity: the pigeon carrying that particular letter never arrived, and McCarthy himself was never seen again.

Orlando Villas Boas - In 1951, Orlando Villas Boas supposedly received the actual remaining skeletal bones of Fawcett and had them scientifically analysed. The analysis allegedly confirmed the bones to be Fawcett's. But his son Brian Fawcett (1906-1984) refused to accept them. Villas Boas claimed that Brian was too interested in making money from books about his father's disappearance. Later scientific analysis confirmed that the bones were not Fawcett's. As of 1965, the bones reportedly rested in a box in the apartment of one of the Villas Boas brothers in São Paulo.

Arne Falk-Rønne - Danish explorer Arne Falk-Rønne journeyed to the Mato Grosso in the 1960s. In a 1991 book, he wrote that he learned Fawcett's fate from Orlando Villas Boas, who had heard it from one of Fawcett's murderers. Apparently, Fawcett and his companions had a mishap on the river and lost most of the gifts they'd brought along for the Indian tribes. Continuing without gifts was a serious breach of protocol; since the expedition members were all more or less seriously ill at the time, the Kalapalo tribe they encountered decided to kill them. The bodies of Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmell were thrown into the river; Colonel Fawcett, considered an old man and therefore distinguished, received a proper burial. Falk-Rønne visited the Kalapalo tribe, and reported that one of the tribesmen confirmed Villas Boas' story about how and why Fawcett had been killed.

In 1996 Kalapalo tribesmen captured an expedition searching for news of Fawcett, but released them a few days later when they gave up all their equipment.

Benedict Allen - In 1998, English explorer Benedict Allen made a video diary documentary called Fawcett's Bones. He set out to talk to the Kalapalo Indians - the tribe said by Villas Boas to have confessed to having killed the three Fawcett expedition members. An elder of the Kalapalo, Vajuvi, claimed during a filmed BBC interview with Allen that the bones found by Villas Boas some 45 years before were not really Fawcett's. Vajuvi also denied that his tribe had any part in the Fawcett's' disappearance. No conclusive evidence supports either statement.

A Kalapalos oral history about Fawcett, has Fawcett and his party staying at their village and then left, heading eastward. The Kalapalos warned Fawcett and his companions not to go that way—that they would be killed by the “fierce Indians” who occupied that territory—but that Fawcett insisted on going. The Kalapalos watched the expedition’s campfire on the horizon each evening for five days before it disappeared. The Kalapalos said they were sure the fierce Indians had killed them.

It is unlikely we will ever know the true circumstances that led to the deaths of the Fawcett expedition members, and perhaps in one way this would have suited the colonel as today we are still talking about him. If he had emerged from the jungle without finding his Lost City of Z, he would do doubt have seen himself as a failure, and he would have soon been forgotten, but with his disappearance his spirit lives on. Return To Fawcett's Journal

Man Hunting in the Jungle Being the Story of a Search for Three Explorers Lost in the Brazilian Wilds by George Dyott available HERE but 1 copy only (£19.99) and in the USA from Quigley Books ($24.00)

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The Bones of Colonel Fawcett (1999) (TV)

Benedict Allen Website

Not yet available on DVD

The Kalapalos Indians

Kalapalos Music

Because of epidemics of measles and influenza during the twentieth century, the population of the Kalapalo greatly diminished, and it was not until the 1970s that it began to recover. In 1968, they numbered 110 persons living in six houses, but by 1982, they had increased to 185 persons living in thirteen houses. In 1999, the population of the Kalapalo villages was estimated to be approximately 362.

The present Kalapalo population includes descendants of an important Karib group, called Anagafïtï, who joined them after a flu epidemic in the 1940s. People from other ethnic groups – the Kuikuru, Matipu, Nahuquá, Mehinaku, Kamayura, and Waura – also live in their villages, due to intermarriages with the Kalapalo.

Kalapalos Indians Fishing

Kalapalos Fishing

Kalapalos Information Website

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