3 Great explorers whose disappearance still remains a mystery today

There were many adventurers and explorers passionate for new discoveries. Unlike the great voyages and discoveries of Columbus or Howard Carter, there are many lost expeditions and disappeared explorers. So here are the stories of three great people and passionate explorers who probably lost their lives on the field, but whose fate remains a mystery till this day.

Percy Fawcett

Fawcett in 1911.

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was born in England in 1867 and was a famous British explorer who’s legendary adventures captivated the world. He ventured into blank spots on the map with little more than a machete and a compass.

Along with his eldest son, Fawcett disappeared under unknown circumstances in 1925 during an expedition to find “Z” – his name for an ancient lost city, which he and others believed to be El Dorado, in the uncharted jungles of Brazil.


In a letter to his son Brian, Fawcett wrote:

“I expect the ruins to be monolithic in character, more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries. Judging by inscriptions found in many parts of Brazil, the inhabitants used an alphabetical writing allied to many ancient European and Asian scripts. There are rumors, too, of a strange source of light in the buildings, a phenomenon that filled with terror the Indians who claimed to have seen it.
The central place I call “Z”…”

Their fate remains a mystery. Hence, it captured a lot of imaginations of what might have happened to the explorers. While conventional wisdom suggests the explorers were killed by hostile Indians, other theories blame everything from malaria to starvation to jaguar attacks for their demise. Some have even speculated that the men simply went native and lived out the rest of their lives in the jungle.

However, according to previously hidden private papers, it appears that Fawcett had no intention of ever returning to Britain and, perhaps lured by a native she-god or spirit guide whose beautiful image haunts the family archive, he planned instead to set up a commune in the jungle, based on a bizarre cult.

George Bass

George Bass.

George Bass was a British naval surgeon and explorer who explored the east coast of Australia. He sailed more than 18 000 kilometres exploring the coastline of Australia and proved that Tasmania was an island. Bass was born in England and arrived in Sydney in 1795.

In 1803, he disappeared after he sailed into the Pacific Ocean with a cargo that he wanted to sell in South America. Some people believe he was captured by the Spanish and forced to work in mines in Peru.


In 1795, together with Matthew Flinders, Bass reached Port Jackson (in what is now New South Wales) and they explored the George’s River and Botany Bay and recommended a settlement, which was made at Banks Town. In 1797 Bass explored the coast south of Sydney and confirmed reports of coal there.

Later in the year and in 1798 he determined the existence of a strait—which was named for him—between New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

Hoping to strike it rich as a private trader, Bass returned to Australia in the early 1800s on a merchant ship called the Venus. When his cargo failed to fetch a respectable price, Bass hatched an audacious plan to travel to South America on a rogue trading mission.

However, Bass and his crew soon disappeared in the Pacific and were never heard of again. Some people believe he was captured by the Spanish in Chile and forced to work in mines in Peru.

Gaspar and Miguel Corte-Real

Statue of Gaspar Corte-Real in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Photo credit  

In a chilling coincidence, the Portuguese brothers Gaspar and Miguel Corte-Real both vanished during separate voyages to the coastline of modern-day Canada.

Miguel Corte Real was born in the mid-15th century in the kingdom of Portugal. His younger brother, Gaspar, became an explorer and is believed to have reached Greenland and Newfoundland in the early 1500s. Once Gaspar went missing, Miguel went in search of his sibling, only to end up missing himself.

On May 12, 1500, King Manuel authorized Gaspar to make an official voyage of exploration across the North Atlantic. It is likely that the king was interested in learning more about the territory (the North American mainland) recently discovered by explorer John Cabot which was believed to be a far northeast part of Asia.

He was travelling north until he reached floating masses of ice and was forced to go back in Lisbon. However, in May 1501 he set off once more across the Atlantic. This time, he headed south with three ships and it is believed that his brother, Miguel, commanded one of them. In October 1501 two of the ships returned to Portugal, but the one captained by Gaspar was not among them.

It was reported that Gaspar and his ship had continued to sail farther south along the coast, in order to reach China. Miguel obtained permission from the king to lead his own expedition across the ocean in search of his brother.

After arriving in Newfoundland, his three caravels split up and began a frantic search of the coastline. But while the other two vessels later returned to their rendezvous point, Miguel’s ship vanished without a trace.

King Manoel, a friend of the Corte Reál family, financed a search expedition in 1503. He forbade a third brother, Vasqueanes, an important government official, from undertaking his own rescue attempt.
While the Corte-Real brothers had failed in their attempts to find a new route to China, they had undertaken some of the first voyages across the North Atlantic Ocean since the days of the Vikings and had reached the North American mainland.


To read about the next 3 adventurers we have for you –  Jean-Francois de Galaup Lapérouse, Francis Crozier and Peng Jiamu. Jump to this article : 3 More great explorers whose disappearance still remains a mystery today


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jack-beckett is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival