* What: Journey to the South Pacific 3D."
* When: Daily screenings start Friday, March 7.
* Where: Tennessee Aquarium Imax Theater, 201 Chestnut St.
* Admission: $9.95 adults, $8.50 children 3-12.
* Phone: 800-262-0695.
* Website: www.tnaqua.org.
ALSO PLAYING AT THE IMAX
* "Penguins 3D"
* "Great White Shark 3D"
Audiences will discover a very special place in the ocean when "Journey to the South Pacific 3D" hits the giant screen at the Tennessee Aquarium Imax Theater beginning Friday, March 7.
"It's the epicenter of marine life in the world," said Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Rob Mottice, who has gone scuba-diving within the famed Coral Triangle. "The water is very pristine, and the reefs are incredible. It's really unlike anywhere else on Earth."
Owing to just the right blend of underwater features and ocean currents, the bright blue waters of the Coral Triangle contain 40 percent of the world's fish species and 75 percent of all known coral species. Six of the world's seven sea turtle species, including the massive leatherback sea turtle, also live alongside Bryde's whales, whale sharks and manta rays in this rich environment.
Four camera teams traveled more than 65 hours with 25,000 pounds of Imax 3D gear to reach their film destination, Papua. They captured dazzling underwater scenes and met a 13-year-old islander named Jawi who became central to this story.
"The film is a celebration of a unique island culture that has developed a special relationship with its ocean environment," says Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, the film's narrator. "The photography is spectacular. It's as if we are swimming alongside manta rays and all the other creatures of the reefs."
Jawi and other island children embark on their own journey of discovery aboard the Kalabia, a small ship that serves as a floating classroom. They explore their own backyard to discover the natural treasures that provide livelihoods and are considered by many ocean conservation groups as vital to the health of the entire planet.
"It's a photographic gem of a place, and with the story of Jawi and the Kalabia, we had an equally alluring gem of a story about protecting the ocean in action," says Shaun MacGillivray, the film's producer.
Mottice says the virtual plunge into swirling masses of sardines, sea turtles and whale sharks was the next best thing to actually diving in the Coral Triangle.
"The footage is incredible and really gives you the sensation of being surrounded by fish," he says. "You also get a great feel for the people of Papua. They are very conscious of their natural treasures and are working hard to preserve them. But I think it all hinges on education. There is a need to teach young people about maintaining and protecting the world's biodiversity hot spots - whether it's a reef in the Coral Triangle or a mountain stream in Tennessee."