Lieutenant Colonel Perceval "Percy" Harrison Fawcett DSO (18 August 1867 – during or after 1925) was an English geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist, and explorer of South America.
Although best known for his disappearance in the Amazon whilst searching for the "Lost City of Z", he also reported and encountered several cryptids. Most famously, he claimed to have shot a giant anaconda 62-feet long, but he also encountered the maricoxi, dogs with two noses (possibly double-nosed Andean tiger hounds), the mitla, and the Apazauca spider. He also briefly mentioned the manguruyú, and possibly the minhocão, and wrote of "huge primeval monsters" in the swamps and jungles, as well as enormous footprints.
Fawcett described his encounter with the giant anaconda as follows:
- "We were drifting easily along in the sluggish current not far below the confluence of the Rio Negro when almost under the bow of the boat there appeared a triangular head and several feet of undulating body. It was a giant anaconda. I sprang for my rifle as the creature began to make its way up the bank, and hardly waiting to aim smashed a .44 soft-nosed bullet into its spine, ten feet below the wicked head. At once there was a flurry of foam, and several heavy thumps against the boat's keel, shaking us as though we had run on a snag.
- "With great difficulty I persuaded the Indian crew to turn in shore-wards. They were so frightened that the whites showed all round their popping eyes, and in the moment of firing I had heard their terrified voices begging me not to shoot lest the monster destroy the boat and kill everyone on board, for not only do these creatures attack boats when injured, but also there is great danger from their mates.
- "We stepped ashore and approached the reptile with caution. It was out of action, but shivers ran up and down the body like puffs of wind on a mountain tarn. As far as it was possible to measure, a length of 45 feet lay out of the water, and 17 feet in it, making a total length of 62 feet. Its body was not thick for such a colossal length-not more than 12 inches in diameter -but it had probably been long without food. I tried to cut a piece out of the skin, but the beast was by no means dead and the sudden upheavals rather scared us. A penetrating foetid odour emanated from the snake, probably its breath, which is believed to have a stupefying effect, first attracting and later paralysing its prey. Everything about this snake was repulsive.
- "Such large specimens as this may not be common, but the trails in the swamps reach a width of six feet and support the statements of Indians and rubber pickers that the anaconda sometimes reaches an incredible size, altogether dwarfing the one shot by me. The Brazilian Boundary Commission told me of one killed in the Rio Paraguay exceeding 80 feet in length!"
And his encounter with the maricoxi:
- "As we stood looking from right to left, trying to decide which direction was the more promising, two savages appeared about a hundred yards to the south, moving at a trot and talking rapidly. On catching sight of us they stopped dead and hurriedly fixed arrows to their bows, while I shouted to them in the Maxubi tongue. We could not see them clearly for the shadows dappling their bodies, but it seemed to me they were large, hairy men, with exceptionally long arms, and with foreheads sloping back from pronounced eye ridges, men of a very primitive kind, in fact, and stark naked. Suddenly they turned and made off into the undergrowth, and we, knowing it was useless to follow, started up the north leg of the trail."
- "In the morning we went on, and within a quarter of a mile came to a sort of palm-leaf sentry-box, then another. Then all of a sudden we reached open forest. The undergrowth fell away, disclosing between the tree boles a village of primitive shelters, where squatted some of the most villainous savages I have ever seen. Some were engaged in making arrows, others just idled--great apelike brutes who looked as if they had scarcely evolved beyond the level of beasts.
- "I whistled, and an enormous creature, hairy as a dog, leapt to his feet in the nearest shelter, fitted an arrow to his bow in a flash, and came up dancing from one leg to the other till he was only four yards away. Emitting grunts that sounded like 'Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!' he remained there dancing, and suddenly the whole forest around us was alive with these hideous ape-men, all grunting 'Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!' and dancing from leg to leg in the same way as they strung arrows to their bows. It looked like a very delicate situation for us, and I wondered if it was the end. I made friendly overtures in Maxubi, but they paid no attention. It was as though human speech were beyond their powers of comprehension.
- "The creature in front of me ceased his dance, stood for a moment perfectly still, and then drew his bowstring back till it was level with his ear, at the same time raising the barbed point of the six-foot arrow to the height of my chest. I looked straight into the pig-like eyes half hidden under the overhanging brows, and knew that he was not going to loose that arrow yet. As deliberately as he had raised it, he now lowered the bow, and commenced once more the slow dance, and the 'Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!'
- "A second time he raised the arrow at me and drew the bow back, and again I knew he would not shoot. It was just as the Maxubis told me it would be. Again he lowered the bow and continued his dance. Then for the third time he halted and began to bring up the arrow's point. I knew he meant business this time, and drew out a Mauser pistol I had on my hip. It was a big, clumsy thing, of a caliber unsuitable to forest use, but I had brought it because by clipping the wooden holster to the pistol-butt it became a carbine, and was lighter to carry than a true rifle. It used .38 black powder shells, which made a din out of all proportion to their size. I never raised it; I just pulled the trigger and banged it off into the ground at the ape-man's feet.
- "The effect was instantaneous. A look of complete amazement came into the hideous face, and the little eyes opened wide. He dropped his bow and arrow and sprang away as quickly as a cat to vanish behind a tree. Then the arrows began to fly. We shot off a few rounds into the branches, hoping the noise would scare the savages into a more receptive frame of mind, but they seemed in no way disposed to accept us, and before anyone was hurt we gave it up as hopeless and retreated down the trail till the camp was out of sight. We were not followed, but the clamor in the village continued for a long time as we struck off northwards, and we fancied we still heard the 'Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!' of the enraged braves."
Fawcett described the Amazon as "a poisoned hell that could never be explored on foot, 60 foot anacondas capable of picking a man out of a canoe, savage ape men, an infested plain of deadly snakes, bats so big they looked like pterodactyls, ferocious black panthers, white Indian tribes, swarms of biting bees, fires in the distance". He later wrote that he "loved that hell". His exploits may have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World, which in turn has inspired several cryptozoologists.
Notes and references
- Fawcett, Brian & Fawcett, Percy (1953) Exploration Fawcett
- Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals
- Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
- Shuker, Karl (2013) Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History