While some past explorers get plenty of press, others’ adventures go virtually unknown. William Carlsen tells the story of two men and their rarely heard tale of exploration in his book Jungle of Stone: The Extraordinary Journey of John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya.
Upon discovering Stephens’ papers at the University of California, Berkeley, Carlsen felt compelled to tell his and Catherwood’s story. To do this, he decided to retrace their actual journey, stop by stop, driving his old car through the jungles in Guatemala. While the Mayan ruins they discovered are now major tourist attractions, Carlsen says, he got a real taste of what their experiences were like and the courage and determination it took to embark on this adventure.
Although very different in personalities, Stephens, a lawyer from New York, and Catherwood, an architect from London, united to become close friends and the perfect team for their exploration into South America. Their desire for adventure and insatiable curiosity sustained them through their journey. In the 1840s, the duo returned to produce a best-selling, illustrated book of their findings. To this day, many have a desire to push the limits of what is known, but few can boast of meaningful, historical discoveries like Stephens and Catherwood.
To learn more about Stephens and Catherwood’s journey or to purchase a copy of Carlsen’s book, see the links below.
- William Carlsen, author of Jungle of Stone: The Extraordinary Journey of John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya.