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Mysteries & Secrets - Lost Cities

Lost city of Atlantis
Over 11,000 years ago there existed an island nation located somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic ocean populated by a noble and powerful race very much like the Egyptians. The people of this land possessed great wealth because of the natural resources found on their island. Mayan Acropolis at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. The island was a center for trade and commerce and was called Atlantis.

Beyond the city lay a fertile plain 330 miles (530 km) long and 110 miles (190 km) wide surrounded by another canal used to collect water from the rivers and streams of the mountains. The climate was allowed for two harvests a year. One in the winter fed by the rains and one in the summer fed by irrigation from the canal.

Besides the harvests, the island provided all kinds of herbs, fruits, and nuts. An abundance of animals, including elephants, roamed the island. For generations the Atlanteans lived simple, virtuous lives. But slowly they began to change. Greed and power began to corrupt them. Eventually, in a violent surge, it was gone. The island of Atlantis, its people, and its memory were swallowed by the sea.

Wonders yet to be discovered
Mato Grosso in Portuguese means "dense forest" - a fitting name for the landlocked Brazilian state nearly three times the size of Texas. Until the second half of the present century, Indians were the only inhabitants of its nearly impenetrable rain forests, and few white men had attempted to chart its terrain.

Into this steaming wilderness filled with animal species still unfamiliar to zoologists and native tribes whose existence was not even suspected, three explorers dared to advance in April 1925. They would be facing poisonous snakes, flesh-eating fish, clouds of biting, stinging insects, and an uncertain welcome from the natives - all in pursuit of an elusive lost city known to them only by an enigmatic code name: "Z." Five weeks after leaving the capital, Cuiaba, the party's leader wrote home to his wife in England from the ominously named Dead Horse Camp (where his mount had died on a previous expedition): "We hope to get through this region in a few days.... You need have no fear of any failure." It was the last message ever received from the jungle explorer.

Penetrating the Veil

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett had been obsessed with solving the mysteries of the Brazilian jungle for nearly two decades. He had been commissioned by the Bolivian government to survey its boundary with Brazil in the years 1906-09 and had returned to the forbidding wilderness popularly called "the green hell" several times in the years since then.

South America's Spanish conquerors had never found fabled El Dorado or the land of the warrior women known as Amazons, but stories about them would not die. In 1911 came the electrifying news of the discovery by an American, Hiram Bingham, of the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, nestled in Peru's Andes Mountains.

Modern day Gold mines. There were other lost cities, natives kept telling Fawcett on his subsequent surveys and explorations. In Chile he heard of a still inhabited City of the Caesars, its streets paved in silver, its buildings roofed with gold. The inhabitants supposedly led a blissful existence under the rule of an enlightened king. Some magic property made it invisible to undesirable adventurers from outside. In Rio de Janeiro, Fawcett found a report of the long forgotten discovery in 1753 of the ruins of a monumental stone city; there was no record of it ever having been visited again.

Finding some Gold Nuggets. Given a 10-inch tall figure carved of black basalt, Fawcett had it evaluated by a psychometrist, one who claims he can divine an object's origin by holding it. Undoubtedly, he was told, it came from the lost continent of Atlantis, taken along when its inhabitants had fled destruction to find refuge and build a great city in the Brazilian wilderness. Since the name was unknown, Fawcett called it -Z- for convenience. A civilization older than Egypt's waited to be uncovered.

"The existence of the old cities I do not for a moment doubt," Fawcett wrote in 1924, as he prepared for another expedition. "Between the outer world and the secrets of ancient South America a veil has descended"; he who penetrated that veil would advance knowledge of the past immeasurably. At age 57, Fawcett knew this would be his last chance to be that person.

Raising funds from various scientific societies and selling the story of his exploration and expected discoveries in advance to the North American Newspaper Alliance, Fawcett was ready for the grand adventure early in 1925. He would take with him only his 21 -year-old son, Jack, and a young friend named Raleigh Rimell. They would probably be gone until the end of the following year. But, if they didn't emerge from Brazil's "green hell," no rescue parties were to be sent. If Fawcett, with all his experience, couldn't survive, there was little hope for others. For that reason, he declined to give a precise route for his exploration.

Tantalizing Clues

In 1927 Fawcett's younger son, Brian, met a French traveler in Lima, Peru. En route across the continent by automobile, the Frenchman had encountered an old, sick, and apparently confused man along a road in Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state between Mato Grosso and the Atlantic. The man had said his name was Fawcett. Not having heard of the lost explorer, the Frenchman did not insist that the stranger join him.

Brian was unable to raise money for a rescue party and not until the following year did the North American Newspaper Alliance send a party under George Dyott to investigate Fawcett's disappearance. A native chieftain told Dyott that he had seen an older white man accompanied by two younger men, both lame. They were headed east, toward the Atlantic. For five days smoke from their camp fires could be seen, but thereafter there was no trace of them. Dyott returned with the belief that Fawcett and the two young men had been killed by the Indians, but the Colonel's family refused to accept this.

Four years later a Swiss trapper named Stefan Rattin emerged from the Mato Grosso with a tale that Colonel Fawcett was being held as a prisoner by Indians. Brian later learned that a half-white native boy claimed to be the son of his brother Jack. All such clues, including bones produced as those of Fawcett, were dead ends. The fate of his father, Brian sadly concluded, would remain a mystery; the riddle of "Z," forever unsolved.

"Whether we get through and emerge again or leave our bones to rot in there, one thing's certain," Colonel Fawcett had told Brian. "The answer to the engima of ancient South America and perhaps of the prehistoric world - may be found when those old cities are located and opened up to scientific research. That the cities exist, I know. . . ."

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