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WHALES (article first published : 2005-09-30)

The National Wildlife Federation, Destination Cinema, and Zephyr Productions, Ltd. have released Whales, a new film for IMAX and other large-format theatres. The film was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation, providing a new educational tool for the large-format theatre industry.

The Imax Theatre at Gateway brought the sounds and images of the sea alive. The hour-long movie Whales premiered on the night of September 21.

The production team of Whales combined arts and science to present these marine animals. Patrick Stewart complimented the movie with superb narration.

The movie started behind the scenes to show how the cameramen and crew captured the best scenes. The co-director Dr Roger Payne, who knows the behaviour of whales, spent 30 years studying the different species. Inside the cabin of the Odyssey the Imax camera was used to shoot larger-than-life images. For some scenes a rig was secured to the hull and the camera was placed in protective housing. Other scenes were shot from the air which gave a fascinating perspective. Cameramen El Giddings and Paul Manny recorded breathtaking images and hydrophones were used by the team to pick up sounds of life. Fred Sharpe guided the camera crew during lunge feeding which is when a whole bunch of whales rise to the surface in a great rush to feed. Whales go to Alaska during the summer when it is their feeding time.

Blue whales are more than 100 feet long and are the largest whales on this planet. A blue whale's heart is larger than a small car and its voice carries more than 1000 miles through the sea.

On the southern coast of Argentina in Peninsula Valdéz, where penguins migrate, there is an intersection of sea, land and wildlife. Dr Roger Payne studies right whales here. Right whales have collocates so one can tell individual whales apart. These whales give birth to one in three calves each year. The mother keeps the baby calf right next to her to protect it. Killer whales roam in packs sometimes killing calves. Whales communicate by tail slapping and they sleep head down with tails in the air.

Hawaii is home to the humped back whale. These whales sing (which sounded more like cows mooing!). Humped back whales are pregnant for one year and give birth in Hawaii. They do not eat in Hawaii, so after birth they go back to Alaska to eat. Successful feeding is the key to survival. Whales are masters of starvation and sometimes lose one-third in weight getting back to Alaska to eat. Humped back whales blow nets in circles of bubbles before feeding. Whales are also masters of navigation but they do sometimes get caught in nets and this is when man turns from hunter to helper.

Alaska is both feeding ground and journey's end for whales. The sea is a place of extraordinary forms of life. V Pauline Dalais

IMAX Theatre Gateway at 10h00, 15h00 and 20h00. Tickets R35 (R25 children, pensioners, students and uniformed services). More information re group rates from Gael on 031 566 4417.




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