Study Guide

Alexander Hamilton Rice in The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

By David Grann

Alexander Hamilton Rice

Rival Crack Pot

Alexander Hamilton Rice is the Mariah Carey to Fawcett's Jennifer Lopez. We picture a reporter asking Rice about Fawcett's accomplishments in mapping the Amazon, and Rice responding, "I don't know her." These guys are the ultimate Amazonian divas. Grann writes, "Despite the vastness of the Amazon, it seemed unable to accommodate all of these explorers' egos and ambitions" (14.39).

Both Rice and Fawcett charted the Amazon, but both men had different motives. Fawcett wanted to find Z, for whatever reason. Rice, on the other hand, Grann describes as "not so much want[ing] to transcend the brutal conditions as transform them" (14.37). Fawcett's greatest strength is, well, his strength. Rice's is his money and resources.

Rice has state-of-the-art tech, like a hydroplane and a two-way radio that allows him to chart the jungle like Fawcett never can. However, this tech also distances Rice from the jungle, and that distance is one reason why Rice never comes close to finding Z—or any evidence of ancient civilizations. It also prevents him from forming close relationships with the natives. Fawcett believes no one should ever shoot to kill, while Rice, on one occasion orders his men to do that. Fawcett later criticizes Rice as being "rather too soft for the real game" (17.51).

As Grann puts it, "Fawcett was incensed that his own efforts had not received equal recognition" (17.12). Yeah, well, on the other hand, after reading Lost City of Z, which man seems more interesting? Grann definitely believes Fawcett deserves the recognition, even if he only gets it after his death.

These men were bitter rivals in life, but after Fawcett's disappearance, Rice offers his sincere apologies to Fawcett's widow, Nina. While not quite a gesture on the level of Carey or Lopez singing a tribute to the other, it's still a nice effort.