Smithsonian scientists squeeze research into movie-making
Tuesday, September 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the Smithsonian Institution and the IMAX
Corp. decided to make a movie about the Galapagos Islands the
result went beyond the giant screen -- scientists squeezed in enough
research to discover more than a dozen marine species.
"Galapagos," the new 3-D film focusing on the unusual wildlife
on and around the Pacific island group west of Ecuador, will have
its world premiere Oct. 27 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of
It follows explorations of marine biologist Carole Baldwin in
the sea surrounding the 19 islands and also visits the rare and
unusual land animals.
"I think I was chosen because I had never been there, and they
wanted a scientist with fresh eyes, someone the audience could
follow. It was fantastic," she said in a telephone interview.
She pronounced the resulting three-dimensional film, displayed
on a giant screen, as great.
"The only thing missing in the theater is the cold and wet,"
she said. "Otherwise, you're there."
But Baldwin didn't settle for just making a movie.
"My goal was science. The filmmaker's goal was certainly to
make a film. The film was being funded by the Smithsonian
Institution and IMAX, so the idea was to make the film about
research," she said.
So, research she did.
"We still don't know exactly how many new species we have,"
she said. The scientists, now back at the museum, must take each of
the new finds and compare it with thousands of others in the
Smithsonian collection to verify it was not previously known.
"I would say its like dozens" of new finds, she added.
The researchers used a submersible vessel to study the largely
unexplored waters between 200 feet and 1,000 feet deep. The area is
to deep for scuba diving, and previous studies using submersibles
concentrated on deeper waters.
"Finding a dozen new vertebrate species in that length of time
is almost unheard of," she said. "But the deep sea is so
unexplored its not uncommon to find new things every time you go
Researchers and film crews stayed 14 weeks in the Galapagos with
the only two IMAX 3-D cameras in the world. They visited more than
80 locations, including dives in the four-person submersible.
Among Baldwin's discoveries: anthiine bass, a new type of sea
bass; an unusual wrasse, a small striped fish that cleans larger
fish, from about 400 feet down; a new cat shark; and several new
Baldwin concentrates on fish, but other researchers turned up
new types of sponges, urchins and gastropod mollusks, she said.
The new species will be added to the Natural History Museum's 8
million-specimen collection of preserved fish as well as to the
collections of the Charles Darwin Research Station in the
Galapagos, the California Academy of Sciences and the Ecuadorian
Navy Oceanographic Institute.
Located on the equator 600 miles west of South America, the
Galapagos have been called the laboratory of evolution, its strange
plants and animals the inspiration for Charles Darwin's theories
that became known as Darwinism.
The new film is to run four times daily on the giant IMAX screen
at the National Museum of Natural History. It will be the first
regular giant-screen 3-D film shown at the museum. Later it will
tour other IMAX theaters around the world.