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LostWorld1912Cover

Front cover of a 1912 edition of The Lost World.

The Lost World is a science fiction adventure novel which was first published in 1912. It was written by the Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The Lost World is the first of five stories based around the character of Professor Challenger which Conan Doyle wrote.

The novel's narrator and protagonist is a journalist named Edward Malone who wants to be given a dangerous assignment in order to impress his girlfriend. He is sent to interview the notoriously bad tempered Professor Challenger, who has fallen out of favor with the scientific community because of his outlandish stories about a remote region of South America. The professor claims that on a very high plateau, which became separated from the rest of the South American continent when it was pushed up by volcanic activity millions of years earlier, dinosaurs and other animals which became extinct in the rest of the world still exist. Malone is keen to join the professor on an expedition to the plateau. They are accompanied by the adventurer Lord John Roxton and Professor Summerlee, a scientist who is initially highly skeptical of Profesor Challenger's stories. Professor Challenger's claims turn out to be true. The explorers find that the plateau is home to all manner of prehistoric creatures, many of which are dangerous. It is also inhabited by a tribe of people called the Accala who are at war with a tribe of ape-men. The explorers help the Accala to fight against and defeat the cruel ape-men.

The novel was adapted for the cinema in 1925, 1960, 1992, 1998 and 2001. It was adapted as a BBC TV movie in 2001. The Lost World also provided the inspiration for a syndicated TV series which ran between 1999 and 2002 and has been adapted as a radio play numerous times.

Plot

Edward Malone is an Irish journalist who works for the London Daily Gazette newspaper. He has been in a relationship with Gladys Hungerton for some time but she refuses to marry him until he proves his bravery. For that reason, Malone is keen to be given a dangerous assignment. The most dangerous assignment which the editor is able to offer Malone is to attempt to interview Professor Challenger, a man who has little patience for those who are not as intelligent as he is and who has recently become an object of ridicule amongst other scientists because of his highly unusual claims. Professor Challenger dislikes journalists and has physically attacked all of those who were recently sent to interview him. Although Professor Challenger initially throws Malone out of his house, he orders him to come back in and listen to his story.

Page 59 (The Lost World. 1912)

Maple White's sketch of the Stegosaurus. Illustration from the first edition.

On a recent expedition to a remote area of South America, which he had visited a few times before, the professor was approached by some of the natives to give medical assistance to a dying white man. The man was an American named Maple White, a poet and artist who had apparently come to the area in search of inspiration. Maple White died before Challenger could speak to him but he left behind an interesting sketch book. Challenger shows the sketch book to Malone. The first few pictures in the book were obviously sketched from life but are not very interesting. Malone then sees an image which he imagines that Maple White must have drawn while under the influence of drink or drugs. Professor Challenger, however, insists that, like all the other pictures, it was drawn from life, that it shows a Stegosaurus and that the only fanciful element in the drawing is a man, which was only added for scale. Challenger goes on to show Malone a large bone, which he says belonged to an animal which died recently but which is completely unknown to science. The professor shows Malone a poor quality photograph of a plateau, in which something can barely be seen in a tree. Malone thinks that it is a bird but Challenger insists that it is a Pterodactyl. Challenger goes on to show the reporter something that Malone takes for an enormous bat's wing, although the professor claims that it belonged to a Pterodactyl that was living until recently. The professor explains that those animals came from a high plateau which rose above the rest of the South American continent millions of years earlier. The plateau became completely isolated from the rest of the world and animals which died out elsewhere continued to thrive there. Malone is not convinced but agrees to attend a lecture which Professor Challenger is to give for other scientists that evening.

At the lecture, Professor Challenger's claims are ridiculed by another scientist named Professor Summerlee. Challenger invites Summerlee to go with him on an expedition to the plateau and to see the prehistoric animals with his own eyes. Professor Summerlee readily accepts and a call goes out for other witnesses to come along. Lord John Roxton volunteers. He is a famous adventurer who has visited the area before, helping to put an end to a criminal slavery operation on his last visit. Edward Malone also volunteers, knowing that he can write about the expedition for his newspaper and hoping to finally impress Gladys Hungerton with his courage.

Frontispiece (The Lost World, 1912)

Photograph which appeared in the first edition. It depicts (from the left) Edward Malone, Professor Summerlee (standing), Professor Challenger (seated) and Lord John Roxton.

The explorers travel towards the plateau in the company of a number of local guides and bearers, many of whom become increasingly nervous and superstitious as they approach the area. The relationship between Challenger and Summerlee is initially frosty, Summerlee not expecting to see anyhting unuusual. Shortly before they arrive at the plateau, a pterodactyl swoops down one evening and steals the wild pig which the men were cooking for dinner. Summerlee admits that he was wrong and Challenger was right and the two men become friends.

After Challenger, Summerlee, Roxton and Malone have crossed the bridge which leads to the plateau, one of the guides, Gomez, reveals himself to be the brother of a man who Roxton killed on his last visit. He destroys the bridge, leaving the travelers stranded. Most of the remaining guides and bearers flee but one, a black man named Zambo, promises to wait for them at the bottom of the plateau.

The travelers explore the plateau. John Roxton takes an unusual interest in some blue clay. They observe many prehistoric animals, narrowly escaping with their lives from some Pterodactyls and an Allosaurus. Malone briefly sees a creature which looks almost human but is covered in reddish-brown hair.

Ape man from The Lost World

The ape-man from the 1925 silent movie version of The Lost World.

Challenger, Roxton and Summerlee are captured by a tribe of ape-men. They find that there are other human captives in the ape-men's village, people from a tribe called the Accala who live on the other side of the plateau and have been mistreated by the ape-men for years. Roxton manages to escape. He and Malone rescue the captives just before Summerlee is about to be sacrificed. They are taken to the Accala's village and help them to plan and carry out an attack on the ape-men. The ape-men are utterly defeated and the Accala occupy the entire plateau.

The Accala are keen for the visitors to stay with them. However, the explorers find that there is a series of tunnels which lead to the base of the plateau. When they arrive at the bottom, they find Zambo waiting for them with a large rescue party.

The travelers return to London, Malone's newspaper story is published but many people do not believe it. Professor Challenger gives another lecture to try to prove the truth of his claims, during which he revelas a live Pterodasctyl which he brought back to England in a crate. The Pterodactyl escapes from the building and is last seen heading out to sea.

Roxton reveals that the reason that he was interested in the blue clay was because it contains diamonds. Roxton says that the diamonds are worth two hundred thousand pounds, which he will share with the other three men. Challenger plans to use his share to open a museum, Summerlee plans to retire and Roxton plans to lead another expedition back to the plateau.

Malone goes to see Gladys but finds that she has already married another man. No longer having anything to prevent him from going, Malone decides to join Roxton on his expedition.

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