“From the top of the ridge, across one last valley, Lawrence could finally see his destination. A lost city at the top of the world.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of The Last Lost Places! Lost cities and places have long captured the imagination of explorers. From Helike in Ancient Greece, to the drowned Egyptian city of Heracleion, to La Ciudad Perdida forgotten in the Colombian rainforest, all were hidden, waiting to be discovered.

In 1933, an RAF pilot spotted submerged ruins under Abu Qir Bay; the Egyptian City sank into the sea by the 8th century AD.
The Colombian lost city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta predates Machu Picchu by over six hundred years.
The Ancient Greek city of Helike was destroyed by a tsunami in 373 BC, discovered in 2001.

In this edition of the Fellow Explorer’s Club, we’re spending some time with one of our favourite new discoveries on Instagram, The Last Lost Places. A daily dive into the world of exploration and adventure, the account combinines intriguing photographs from obscure corners of the world, with a short sentence or two of text that are embedded into the photograph. The Last Lost Places evokes the spirit of old adventure serials of the 1930s, that often centered around expeditions to find long forgotten, remote places.

Andrew Paterson is the writer behind the Instagram account which gives its followers a micro adventure story every day. He is also writing a novel, in which he aims to capture the spirit of old fashioned adventure in modern times. We talked to him about his love of classic adventure stories, and why we need a dash of adventure in our everyday lives.

Society for Gentlemen Explorers (SGE):

Andrew Paterson (AP): I live in suburban Australia with my wonderful wife and children. I work in a corporate job, which I find challenging and satisfying most of the time. But sometimes the office walls start to close in around me, and I get the sudden urge to trek through a jungle, discover ancient ruins or find lost treasure. 

I’m sure I can’t be the only one. There must be others out there who dream of adventure while they sit in a cubicle or wait for the bus. That is why I started The Last Lost Places on Instagram, for all the daydream explorers out there.

SGE: We like the sense of old fashioned adventure in your posts. Is that something you love?

AP: I have loved adventure stories for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I read the Famous Five stories by Enid Blyton. At the time I didn’t question that a group of twelve year olds could go on long, unsupervised holidays and solve crimes. I just admired their courage and envied their freedom to explore. 

Then I read the Biggles series by W.E. Johns, which follows the exploits of an ace pilot during and after WWI. Again it was the courage, freedom and exotic locations that appealed to me. Poor old Biggles has been reduced to a goofy caricature nowadays, but the original stories are a joy for fans of classic adventure. 

As a moody fifteen year old I read the fantastic Tomorrow series by John Marsden. It is about a group of teenagers who survive off the grid in enemy occupied Australia, and wage guerrilla warfare on their invaders. I remember wishing I was one of them. I also played Tomb Raider 2 for hours on end, and wore out my Indiana Jones VHS tape. By adulthood, a love of old fashioned adventure was engrained into me.

SGE: Your Instagram posts are quite unique, telling stories by combining words with photography. Where did you get the idea?

AP: The idea came from Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and social media expert. Gary has great advice for anyone pursuing a passion: create online content about your passion that adds value to others. So I started The Last Lost Places to provide a dash of adventure in the daily lives of other concrete jungle explorers like me. It has been great fun so far.

My original idea was to just post pictures of places that looked fun to explore, but this was too similar to the many other travel accounts on Instagram. So I added the short stories as a way to be different, and practice my writing at the same time. 

SGE: Lawrence is a key figure in your posts. Who is he?

AP: Lawrence is the main character of my novel. He was once a passionate professional in a field where he could help people every day. Then he made a terrible mistake. A mistake so bad that he could no longer face his colleagues, his family or even himself. Lawrence had to go far away and try to forget. He found a job with a humanitarian group travelling through the third world. Despite this apparent newfound purpose, Lawrence deteriorated further. The novel begins at Lawrence’s lowest moment, when he stumbles upon one of the last lost places on earth. It gives him the opportunity to save the last thing he cares about, and rediscover meaning in his life.

SGE: Do you think its possible to write an old fashioned adventure novel set in modern times?

AP: Unfortunately it is becoming harder to write this kind of story as technology advances. The problem is that there are not many places left to discover. So many adventure stories are set in the past for a reason; because there were still some blanks on the map. An audience will believe that in 1935 an archaeologist could throw a pistol in his suitcase and find a lost city. That story is not believable now we have Google Earth.

There are a few exceptions. The premise of Jurassic Park is that there is an island that is deliberately kept secret from the outside world by a corporation. This allows the characters to truly explore and make amazing discoveries in the old fashioned sense.

I recently read The Spear of Destiny by Daniel Easterman, in which an elaborate tomb buried beneath the Sahara seems totally believable even in the twenty-first century. This gives me hope for real life discoveries. Who knows what still lies hidden in the Amazon, or under the Himalayas? If the tomb of Alexander the Great is still undiscovered, imagine what else is out there.

Then there are the recently abandoned places. I am fascinated by the urban exploration community and the history they uncover. I think there is potential for an adventure novel here too.

I think a modern audience will still believe there are hidden wonders in the world, provided the characters are well-rounded and the plot is realistic. So yes, I do believe it is possible to keep old fashioned adventure alive. I’m going to try anyway.

SGE: Do you have plans to explore the locations featured in your posts?

AP: I have had a few adventures in the past. I have sneaked into a WW2 bunker on the coast of Italy. I have swum under the highest waterfall in Africa. I have been lost after dark in a Moroccan Medina. But in my current stage of life I am more than happy with safe family holidays, and sending Lawrence out to explore the world at The Last Lost Places.