Northwest NEWS

November 29, 1999


'Island of the Sharks' opens

by Deborah Stone

   The IMAX film Island of the Sharks recently opened at the Pacific Science Center. It's an exciting underwater adventure for audiences of all ages that immerses them in the waters of Cocos Island, a Pacific paradise brimming with a dazzling array of sea creatures.

   Located some 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island served as the inspiration for the settings of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Michael Chrichton's Jurassic Park. It is rumored to have been a pirate's refuge with buried gold and silver, but its real treasures are the natural wonders that inhabit its waters.

   More sharks per cubic meter of water than any other place on the planet call Cocos Island their home. There are also manta rays, marlin, giant sea turtles, moray eels, stingrays, and tuna, as well as vibrant tropical reef fish.

   To IMAX filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall, Cocos Island was a wonderful place to make a large-format film. "You see unbelievable schools of hammerhead sharks, sometimes 400 of them filling your field of vision," says Howard Hall. "It's common on single dive to see 100 to 200 white-tip, black-tip, and silky sharks."

   The Halls are world-renowned for their documentaries of marine natural history, and directed the highly successful Into the Deep, the IMAX 3-D film that had a successful seven-month run at the Pacific Science Center this past year.

   "The strength of the films we make is bringing animal behavior to the screen," comments Howard. "It's not just beautiful animals, it's what they're doing. We want to give people a sense of the lives of marine life so that they appreciate it more, and hopefully, want to do something to protect our oceans."

   The husband-and-wife team wanted viewers to get past the image of sharks as vicious creatures and learn what's really fascinating about them, including their sophisticated sensory systems and unique behaviors.

   Filming took place on six expeditions which allowed the team to capture behaviors never before recorded on film, including a dramatic sequence of silky sharks feeding on a swirling school of jacks. Viewers will see striped marlin rushing and spearing fish on their swords, dozens of stingrays winging through the water in a graceful courtship dance, and hundreds of primitive-looking hammerheads cruising the depths of the waters.

   The crew didn't use dive cages or defensive weapons during the filming and co-existed peacefully with the sharks throughout the process. Island of the Sharks is a great vehicle to dispel myths and perceptions of ocean predators.

   For information on show times, call 206-443-4629.