A Forgotten Adventure With a Telepathic Tribe

A new play revisits a National Geographic photographer’s strange encounter while searching for the source of the Amazon.

Near the top of a mountain in the Peruvian Andes is a small lake named Laguna McIntyre. This is the source of the Amazon River, so named for the National Geographic photographer, writer, and prolific explorer who made the discovery. “Amazing is the word heard most often at National Geographic headquarters to describe Loren McIntyre, who surmounts all obstacles with ease,” read a 1987 editor’s note marking his 70th birthday.

But there was one adventure McIntyre rarely spoke about. In the late 1960s, he went to Brazil in search of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon rain forest called the Mayoruna. McIntyre was dropped off on a riverbank, and followed the tribe into the forest. Before long he was unable to find his way back and ended up missing his return flight. McIntyre lived with the tribe for two months. Although they shared no common language, he discovered he could communicate with the chief via telepathy, in a manner he began to call “beaming.” This skill, he later learned, was known to the tribe as the “other language,” a way of communicating possessed only by the elders.

The Mayoruna were on the run, moving deeper into the forest to escape encroaching developers and settlers. As McIntyre followed them, they began to destroy their possessions in a quest to return to “the beginning,” a time before outside civilization intruded into their lands. One night, in the midst of these preparations, a tributary flooded their camp, and McIntyre grabbed onto a drifting balsa raft. He floated down the river and was rescued by a pilot.

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