Study Guide

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon Tools and Technology

By David Grann

Tools and Technology

The Golden Compass

Technology moves at a rapid pace. Whatever device you're reading this on is probably going to be obsolete by the time you finish this sentence. Reading Lost City of Z, we see how changing technology shapes the world, and how shaping the world changes technology.

Grann shows us the technology Fawcett used to explore the jungle. Sextants, chronometers, aneroids, and compasses, all devices that would be in historical museums today, were state of the art in the 1920s. These tools stand in contrast to the things Grann purchases in 2005: "Compression sacks, water-purifying bottles, portable solar-powered hot showers, kayaks that folded into a bag" (7.16). Grann also drives a truck with GPS into the jungle, whereas Fawcett was only able to explore by foot. He didn't have GPS. He was the GPS.

Technology definitely gives people an advantage in the jungle. In fact, the difference in tech is a big source of animosity between Fawcett and his rival, Alexander Hamilton Rice. Fawcett has only the bare essentials. Rice, by contrast, has more tools than a frat house during hazing week.

Tools and technology don't only change the way people explore the jungle; they change the jungle itself. Outsiders bring technology into the jungle and leave it there. Tribes these days have shortwave radios and televisions. Modern explorers bring cell phones. Could technology be a disease of a different kind, or is it a cure?