Exploring The Amazon -- Loren Mcintyre's Adventures In The Vast Region, Including `Beaming' With A Reclusive Tribe, Are Detailed In Two New Books
Loren McIntyre still remembers the news stories that fascinated him as a child in the 1920s in Seattle's Seward Park neighborhood.
Like today's tabloids, he recalls, the Sunday supplements always seemed to feature a story either on the king of Romania's mistress, or a countess and her lovers living in the Galapagos Islands, or - the one he remembers most - the disappearance of Col. Percy H. Fawcett, a British explorer lost in the depths of Brazil.
"The Sunday supplements had stories about whether or not he had become a white god there," the 74-year-old McIntyre recalled yesterday.
He became fascinated with the Amazon region of South America, a fascination that would lead him from Cleveland High School through a Depression-era stint in the Merchant Marine, to a career exploring and photographing the area. In 1971 he located the ultimate source of the giant river, a mountain lake in the Peruvian Andes now known as Laguna McIntyre.
McIntyre's story is told in two new books: "Amazonia" (Sierra Club Books, $40), a coffee-table book of McIntyre's photographs, many originally shot for National Geographic, showing the splendor of the rain forest and its native residents; and "Amazon Beaming" (Viking, $25), the story of two of McIntyre's journeys, written by Romanian-born Petru Popescu.
In Popescu's book, McIntyre tells how in 1969, when he was exploring the forest, he was kidnapped by the Mayoruna, a nomadic tribe who had avoided most contact with the outside world. He had an interpreter, a Mayoruna named Cambio, but he also found he could communicate with the tribe's shaman through a nonverbal telepathic link practiced by the Mayoruna - "beaming," he calls it.
Beaming gave McIntyre access to the tribe's "group knowledge," its collective history and information about the area, which later proved vital when he was planning his expedition to locate the Amazon's source.
McIntyre was reluctant to talk or write about beaming until convinced by Popescu, who met him in 1987 in Brazil.
"After it had happened," McIntyre said, "I wasn't sure myself if it had really happened or not. Hallucinations are something that happen to many explorers and to all mountain climbers."
But McIntyre later heard of it from other sources, and he reconfirmed it seven years later when he met again with Cambio.
To promote their books, McIntyre and Popescu have been touring with a slide show of McIntyre's photographs, including an appearance last night at the Elliott Bay Book Company. They hope to mount a new journey next year to see if and how the Mayoruna have survived.
"The region where Loren made contact with the Mayoruna is beginning to feel the pressure of coca-growing," Popescu added. Cultivating the plant from which cocaine is derived, both said, is more threatening to the forest than government-approved developments; it is an industry that won't listen to environmentalists.
"The only way to stop the coca bosses is to eliminate the demand," McIntyre said. "With every snort of cocaine, another tree goes down."
Their appearance in Seattle coincided with Columbus Day, a holiday commemorating an explorer criticized in recent years as a symbol of the mistreatment of indigenous Americans. McIntyre sees the controversy in a different light.
"The dictionary definition of discovery is to make known. The aborigines were the first to explore these continents, but they didn't make it known," he said. "Columbus made known what he thought was the East Indies. The first to talk about it being an unexpected continent was (Amerigo) Vespucci, who got his name on it."
McIntyre also sees an evolution in his profession.
"Exploration, in the traditional Kiplingesque idea, is going to the mountaintop and imagining the cities that will arise on the plains," he said. "Now people are worrying about the effect of all those new cities on the plains.
"This change in attitudes has gone 180 degrees in recent years, and it belongs primarily to the North Americans and Europeans. The guy on the frontier in Brazil wants to have a road so he can drive to the store, so he can live like we do."
Recent interest in the Amazon has focused on threats to the rain forest. Unlike many environmentalists, McIntyre is not pessimistic.
"I don't feel apocalyptic. Most of it's still there," he said. Part of the answer, he said, is in showing the region's leaders that keeping the forest and its drainage system intact is best for the area's long-term economic growth.
"We have time to do something about it, but not by driving around in cars to environmental prayer meetings."
Published Correction Date: 10/16/91 - Photographer And Amazon Explorer Loren Mcintyre Graduated From Seattle's Franklin High School. This Article Incorrectly Named Another High School.
Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.