Charles Brewer Carias, 72, is an explorer and "discoverer'. Born in Venezuela, the grandson of a British diplomat, he has built a career leading more than 200 expeditions into the Venezuelan rainforest. Twenty-seven species of flora and fauna have been named after him and he holds the world record for making fire with sticks (2.7 seconds). He talks to Tim Bromfield about being a Victorian explore century and his discovery of the lost city of El Dorado
I am an explorer, and I have dedicated my life to discovery, to exploration and to obtaining from that exploration new things for the world. I am a discoverer of plants, caves, crickets, frogs, Indian weavings - you name it.
However, I am living in a century of the specialist. I'm not a specialist; I am an encyclopaedist in the 19th-century sense. That's my century, the century of explorers and discoverers. But when you say you're an explorer or a discoverer, people put their tongues in their cheeks. I feel that I'm going through a century that doesn't understand what I do.
When I was a child, Caracas was a city of 300,000 people, it was a rural area. That meant that I grew up with contact with so many plants and animals. The great explorers of the Venezuelan Gran Sabana were patients at my father's dental clinic during the 1940s and I heard them speaking about the lost cities they had seen in the jungle.
The edge of the unknown still haunts us. To discover is to shed the veil of things that men have never known before. So you become a kind of creator, and this carries a responsibility. Where was it? At what time? When? Why? Detailed observation must accompany your sight so that you are sure that what you are looking at is a piece of information that no-one has ever had before. So you create. And as the great Colombian explorer Mauricio Obregon said: 'When you discover, you must say it with poetry.'
Anybody can be a discoverer. It's a matter of preparation, of knowledge, of being interested in everything. The only limits are those of our imagination.
E1 Dorado was not a place but a man: the gilded man, chief of the Oreiones, descended from the Incas. People started to speak about him in 1539, when three conquistadors gathered at Bogota found evidence that indicated that, in the jungles east of the Andes, there existed an Indian chief who washed in gold dust and lived at a lake called Parime. Since then, thousands of men have died looking for this place, the lost city of Manoa.
The idea of the existence of the goldmine of the Incas has been maintained by many people, including Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in Brazil in 1925; and others, such as Jimmie Angel, who discovered the Angel Falls, and Paul Redfern, who disappeared with his airplane in 1927. …