Voyage to coral reefs in the South Pacific to explore their remarkable contribution to life on earth -- but also the imminent dangers they face -- in the IMAX movie "Coral Reef Adventure," opening Sept. 6 at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
The film will show at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. daily through Jan. 12, 2012, in Connecticut's largest IMAX Theater, with a screen that's six stories high.
"Coral Reef Adventure" is narrated by actor Liam Neeson, features music by Crosby, Stills & Nash, and includes the efforts of renowned ocean advocate Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the pioneering oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
Often called "the rain forests of the sea," coral reefs are among the most important and beautiful ecosystems in the world. They also are among the ecosystems most susceptible to human actions -- both direct (like pollution, silt runoff and overfishing) and indirect (like global warming). An estimated 75 percent of the world's reefs are threatened. Half of the United States' coral reef ecosystems are considered by scientists to be in poor or fair condition.
Husband-and-wife underwater cinematographers Howard and Michele Hall decided to create the IMAX movie as a film record of reefs as they exist today. Along their journey, the Halls join scientists and conservationists working to understand and save the reefs. In Fiji, they dive with Cousteau and with Richard Pyle, a deep-sea ichthyologist and self-described "fish nerd." Pyle and Howard Hall descend to a dangerous 350 feet in search of deep-ocean corals that are still unknown to science. Seeking them out is an urgent conservation priority, but it means diving to a realm seldom visited: The ocean "twilight zone," never before filmed in the IMAX format.
In Tahiti, the Halls join a local chapter of Reef Check, an international organization of divers who help study local coral resources. And, off the Rangiroa atoll, Howard Hall searches for huge schools of sharks known to live there. If these top predators still swim the waters of Rangiroa, that's a good sign for the health of the whole ecosystem. Howard's team doesn't find just a few sharks, they find 300: a happy but slightly unnerving end to their journey.
Variety Magazine said the film helps audiences understand "the speed with which a coral reef -- thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years in the making -- can die. Time-lapse photography traces the draining and bleaching of a large section in a matter of weeks. The film's message is amply clear: These largest living structures in the world, home to 25 percent of the earth's marine life, have been around for 60 million years but might be all but gone in three decades."
Chris Loynd, the aquarium's marketing director, noted that "Coral Reef Adventure" is the third IMAX film about the oceans produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films, which has initiated a "One World, One Ocean" conservation campaign (www.oneworldoneocean.org).
"The previous two films, `The Living Sea' and `Dolphins,' have been among the most popular IMAX movies ever shown at The Maritime Aquarium," Loynd said. "We expect visitors will love `Coral Reef Adventure' just as much."
Also playing on IMAX Sept. 6 through Jan. 12 at The Maritime Aquarium will be "Born to Be Wild," at noon and 2 p.m. daily (call ahead or go online prior to visiting to confirm times). "Born to Be Wild" journeys to Kenya and to Borneo, where two courageous women have devoted their lives to rescuing and raising orphaned baby elephants and orangutans for eventual release back into the wild. Actor Morgan Freeman narrates this inspiring story of love, dedication and the remarkable bond between humans and animals.
Tickets for either "Coral Reef Adventure" or "Born to Be Wild" are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6.50 for children 2-12. Maritime Aquarium members receive $2 discounts.
To include a visit into The Maritime Aquarium with one of the IMAX films, tickets are $19.45 for adults, $17.95 for seniors and $14.45 for children 2-12.
For details about The Maritime Aquarium's IMAX movies, exhibits or programs this fall, call 203-852-0700 or go online to www.maritimeaquarium.org.