Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Lost City of the Monkey God

by Douglas Preston
326 pgs

In 2015 Douglas Preston was invited to accompany an expedition into the Mosquitia region of Honduras. The purpose of the expedition was to explore a site, which had been identified three years earlier using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) surveys from the air. The use of LIDAR had given archaeologists the means of seeing through the dense rainforest and identify man-made structures. Their goal had been to locate the legendary “Ciudad Blanca” (White City) and they were pretty confident they had.

In The Lost City of the Monkey God, Preston chronicles the discovery process the team went through using LIDAR to confirm the existence of the ruins, the 10-day expedition he and the rest of the team embarked on at the site, and the ramifications of their discovery.

I thought the book was fascinating. I found it amazing that the remnants of a city, as large and extensive as the White City was, could remain untouched and undiscovered for 500 years. It’s easy to forget in today’s age of satellites and technology, that there are still areas of the world we know virtually nothing about. It was especially eye opening to me, as Preston described the expedition itself, to realize that in the dense rainforest where the White City was discovered, it’s possible to be standing mere feet away from ancient ruins, and have no idea they’re there.

As I read most of the book, I found myself wishing for the same opportunity he was given. Despite the conditions and dangers he and the team faced while there, including jaguars, aggressive and poisonous snakes, disease-carrying insects, and heavily-armed drug traffickers, I couldn’t help but envy Preston for what he was able to do. My envy ended though when Preston discovered he had been infected with mucosal leishmaniasis, a flesh-eating parasite, while there. As he described the “volcano-like” lesion that formed on his arm shortly after returning home, and the ordeal he had to go through just to battle the parasite into submission (he’ll never be rid of it), my jealousy waned and I was once again content living vicariously through him.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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