Travel to South Africa or the Grand Canyon in two IMAX films at the Museum of Science
In the vast ocean off the eastern coast of South Africa, millions of tiny sardines swim in unison. They are so dense that they look like an oil slick from the air. When hundreds of bottlenose dolphins charge and gannets dive from above, the swarm moves frantically, under attack from above and below.
This is how nature works when free from human interference, and it is captured in the IMAX film, "Wild Ocean,'' which is playing at the Mugar Omni Theatre at the Museum of Science.
"It’s an underwater battle,'' says the film’s narrator. "On the Wild Coast, there is still an abundance of action like nowhere else.''
Against the background of fisheries depleted by overfishing and threatened by warming waters, "The Wild Ocean'' celebrates a once common but now rare vitality.
"The sardines are at the center of a delicate food chain and this is one place where the food chain is unbroken,'' says the narrator.
The film is written and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, the creators of STOMP, and the soundtrack pulses with powerful African-influenced rhythms, building to a crescendo when the dolphins and gannets attack the sardines.
It’s thrilling to see the waves churn as hundreds of bottleneck dolphins leap, humpback whales breach, and gannets dive bomb from a height of 100 feet. The ultimate impact is to make you want to protect this area, known as the KwaZuluNatal shoreline, which South Africans call the Wild Coast. So it’s a relief to learn that South Africa has designated it a marine reserve, protecting 800 square miles.
Given that relatively few Americans visit that remote coast, the IMAX film is the next best thing to being there.
That’s true also with another IMAX film, "Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk,'' which runs through Sept. 8. The film takes viewers on a raft ride down the Colorado River (set to music by The Dave Matthews Band), where swirling rapids challenge rafters and kayakers. A flyover offers grand views of the massive Grand Canyon and the narrow river that flows a mile below.
Coursing down the river are three sets of parents with daughters, including Robert Kennedy Jr., who recalls how the river has changed since his father brought him there on a rafting trip.
Many Americans have rafted the river and seen the beauty of this area, but the film exposes the ways it has suffered as the population has burgeoned in the surrounding desert and a drought has affected the southwest. The damming of the Colorado and the strain of providing water and power to 25 million Americans has caused water levels to shrink dramatically. The result is that the 1,400-mile river no longer consistently reaches the Pacific Ocean, much of the river’s indigenous wildlife has disappeared and its future is imperiled.
The film, narrated by Robert Redford, makes you want to protect this powerful river and others by reducing your water use. It offers suggestions on how to do so, such as using low-flow shower heads and toilets, running dishwashers and washing machines only when full, avoiding unnecessary lawn watering and utilizing water-efficient drip irrigation methods.
"We can heal the river if we have the will,'' Redford says.
Reach Jody Feinberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.