expedition

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Orlando Villas Boas with two Kalapalo Indians with the supposed bones of Colonel Fawcett. 1952 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Lost City of Z

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was a famous British explorer who’s legendary adventures captivated the world

Lieutenant Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett DSO (18 August 1867 – during or after 1925) was a British geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist and explorer of South America. He charted the wilderness of South America but then disappeared without a trace while exploring the Brazilian jungle in search of “The Lost City of ‘Z,'” his name for an ancient lost city, which he and others believed to exist and to be the remains of El Dorado, in the jungles of Brazil.

Danger appealed to Fawcett, and over the course of many years, broken only by a return to the army at the outbreak of the First World War, he ventured out on a succession of missions to map the unknown jungle — sometimes alone — and follow up the tantalising clues that the undergrowth masked a hidden civilisation to rival those of Greece or Rome.

During an expedition to find “Z” a place Colonel and South American explorer Percy Fawcett became increasingly engrossed by over the years, Fawcett vanished in the wilderness on his expedition in 1925, along with his two partners, his son Jack, and another friend. The case is one of the wildest mysteries in missing person cases today, and some believe the trio could have been eaten alive by wild animals.

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The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton. A generation of British schoolchildren grew up fascinated by his account in Wanderings of riding a large and violently unimpressed cayman for several minutes, and awed by his description of his failure to be bitten by vampire bats in Guiana, though he left his toe deliberately exposed from his hammock for just this purpose night after night.

The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton. A generation of British schoolchildren grew up fascinated by his account in Wanderings of riding a large and violently unimpressed cayman for several minutes, and awed by his description of his failure to be bitten by vampire bats in Guiana, though he left his toe deliberately exposed from his hammock for just this purpose night after night.

The Gentle Art of Political Taxidermy

Charles Waterton

“Squire” Charles Waterton, 27th Lord of Walton Hall (Yorkshire, England), hated being called an eccentric, but an eccentric he was. He liked to get under the dinner table and bite the legs of his guests like a dog; he walked barefoot in the tropical forests of British Guiana; he climbed the cross of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and put his gloves on its lightning conductor. He knocked out a boa constrictor with a mighty punch; he tried to fly from the top of an outhouse (“navigate the atmosphere,” he called it), only to land on the ground with a “foul shake.”

 No one can say that Waterton was not a talented and interesting man. Instead, they said he was eccentric, which, when translated from 19th-century-aristocratic-British-scientist-speak, meant “so crazy we’re pretty sure that he removed his own brain and jammed it in again backwards.”

In the 19th century, when the rich were insane, they were simply eccentric; when the poor were insane, they were crazy. Luckily for Charles Waterton (1782-1865), he inherited a large estate and could insulate himself from legal scrutiny and indulge his whims and interests. Waterton would make a problematic biography, his life filled with front-line environmentalism, exploration, taxidermy, and natural history interests wrapped around a solid steel stake of bizarre personal behaviour. Money was his greatest curative, an elixir of great depth and more understanding than Dr. Freud could ever muster. But ultimately maybe all of this behaviour masked a terminal boredom.

He fashioned weird monstrosities out of hollow animal skins through his own preserving methods (one, the bearded “Nondescript,” made from the skin of a red howler monkey, was probably a caricature of his enemy, Treasury Secretary J.R. Lushington). He bled himself, against doctors’ advice, at least 136 times in his life (“tapping my claret”), and taking from 16 to 20 oz. of blood each time.

But he was not entirely crazy.

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Photo Of The Day

Photo: Unknown source. Hugh Glass. This is his smiley face. Really it is.

Photo: Unknown source.
Hugh Glass. This is his smiley face. Really it is.

Left for Dead

A Mountain Man and a Bear

“Left for dead” are three words you never want to follow too closely behind your name. A few other unfortunate, three-word phrases come to mind, like “attacked by grizzly,” “stalked by natives,” and “crawled 200 miles” — and in 1823 fur trapper Hugh Glass tried them all on for size.

Now early 19th Century America was awesome because you could be hired by the government to be what was called a “mountain man”, which was essentially the official way of saying “professional badass”. Basically a mountain man would get hired on by an expedition to scout out territory, kill bears, play the banjo and give people the evil eye.  Well that’s what Hugh Glass did for a living.

Hugh was an Irishman raised by Pawnee Indians who wandered the countryside lending his services to various expeditions that required a crazy man capable of busting bears’ heads together, collecting furs, frightening the city-folk and being a hardass.

In 1822 Hugh Glass signed on to go on a fur-hunting expedition into the northern Missouri River area.  One day while he was out alone hunting for food, he was surprise attacked by a big bottom angry grizzly bear.

The bear knocked the rifle out of Glass’ hands, totally body slammed him and started clawing the crap out of him.  Since he was a hardas Davy Crockett mother though, Glass just started punching the thing back and hacking at it with his bigass mountain man combat knife. There was this huge battle, and when his friends finally got there to see what was going on, they found a half-conscious Glass pinned down underneath the body of a big dead bear.

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