A land of primitives. But there are rubber plantations all over Amazonia. Very profitable. There is now considerable argument between Bolivia and Brazil as to what constitutes their border. So fantastically high is the price of rubber that war could arise. Neither country will accept mapping done by the other, so they’ve requested us to act as referee. As you completed your mapping here with distinction, you came under our consideration. Major, this is far more than just survey work. This is exploration in the jungle. The environment is brutally difficult, terrible disease, murderous savages. The journey may well mean your life.
M: I read your article in the Times this morning about the slave trade in the Americas. You’re an enlightened man. Poor savages.
P: The native does deserve our sympathy. I think we have only just scratched the surface of Amazonia.
M: Most certainly. I am a biologist, but I am also somewhat of an explorer. I was second-in-command under Shackleton in Antarctica. Did you know that?
P: I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s not well aware of your accomplishments, Mr. Murray. You have distinguished yourself with great bravery. I know what these expeditions require.
M: Well, it’s been my lifelong ambition to go to the Amazon, you know.
P: Well, I must say, I hope that the RGS continues its pursuits, but I have come to believe that mapmaking should be a secondary interest.
P: I witnessed several archaeological discoveries that I believe may have enormous significance.
M: Such as?
P: Pottery in the jungle, where no white man has ever been before.
K: My friend, a word in ear, please. Um, your… your exploits have open every door for you, but I would suggest keeping such findings to yourself, hmm? It is one thing to defend the primitive jungle men. It is quite another to elevate their capacity beyond reason. I mean, no one here would dispute that you believed what you saw, but, uh… such a trip is very hard on the mind. Very hard indeed.
P: Mr. Keltie, I think you should find my mind perfectly fit, and still open, thank heavens.
N: By rights, I should be with my husband.
G: It’s men only, I’m afraid, madam.
P: My esteemed colleagues, it is now my firm belief that Amazonia is far more than the green desert which many of us had supposed. I’m proposing that Amazonia contain a hidden civilization. One that may well predate our own.
B: Major Fawcett, I’m Mr. William Barclay, of Bedford. And I have been to South America.
P: Please, Mr. Barclay, I’m sure we’d all be thrilled to hear about your holiday. But we are currently discussing exploration.
B: Now, to be clear, are you insisting on mythical kingdoms of gold? Now, those fantasies lured the conquistadors to their destruction.
P: Sir, it was the conquistadors and we who have been destroying Amazonia. I have seen with my own eyes evidence of their civilization, and I assure you, sir, it is real. Perhaps it is too difficult for some of you to admit. We, who have been steeped in the bigotry of the church for so long cannot give much credence to an older civilization, particularly one created by a race the white man has so brutally condemned to slavery and death.
B: Are you insisting that these savages, they are our equals?
P: I do not know, Mr. Barclay, but I intend to find out.
B: What, savages in Westminster Abbey?
P: Hence your disrespect, sir. But, what is at stake? If you may find a city where one was considered impossible to exist, it may well write a whole new chapter in human history. Consider my evidence. I have archaeological finds! Antiquities as sophisticated as any in Asia or Europe, in the middle of the jungle!
Others: Pots and pans!
P: Settle down! After my return from the jungle, I have examined a signal document dating from the conquistadors, Mr. Barclay. It states explicitly the discovery of a lost city. Uncovered in Trinity College, Dublin, this week, by my lovely wife. Written by a Portuguese soldier in 1753. And I quote:
“we came upon the ruins of an ancient city, bedecked with gold. Roads, temples, ancient symbols.”
B: What, El dorado?
P: No, gentlemen! No! I call it Z. The ultimate piece of the human puzzle! It is there, and we must find it!
M: Mr. Fawcett, Mr. Fawcett, I say we return! I say we go and find the glory! What say you?
P: What I say, Mr. Murray, is I accept that challenge! Mr. Costin, I see you seated there! Will you return with us?
C: Mr. Fawcett, that jungle is hell, but one kind of likes it.
P: We shall return! And we shall find the glory!
P: The so-called “savages” have cultivated the jungle where no one thought it could be done. We’ve been so arrogant and contemptuous, I no less than others. Look how it’s all laid out. It’s mathematical in its precision.
C: Well, it’s what you’ve been saying.
It’s something I wrote in the event that I did not survive the birth.
“My Percy, I know your first instinct will be to grieve,
But I adjure you rather to consider our son,
And the love you must show him.
I knew it would be a boy.
Always teach him to dream.
To seek the unknown.
To look for what is beautiful is its own reward.
And I beg you to remember those words so easy to forget:
‘a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
or what’s a heaven for?’ (Robert Browning)
my dearest love forever.”