'Whales' Immerses Viewers in Creatures' Majesty

Swim with the whales to music composed by Yanni. Listen to their haunting and complex songs. Watch the gentle giants eat and play as they navigate the coastal waters of Alaska, Newfoundland, and Hawaii.

The new film "Whales," which premired recently at the Museum of Science's IMAX-Omni screen in Boston, is powerful and majestic. Because it is projected onto an enormous screen, you feel as if you are actually in the ocean with these colossal creatures.

Scientist Roger Payne, who has studied whales for more than two decades, says, "It was, for me, the answer to many, many years of work." Dr. Payne, president of the Whale Conservation Institute, co-directed and is featured in the film.

Payne, along with colleague Scott McVay, is best known for discovering that humpback whales sing songs. One of the challenges during the filming, Payne says, was getting whales to swim near the divers. During one film shoot, a female diver went into the water, but the whales wouldn't stay.

"So, I radioed down to her and said 'just stay still' because often the whales will come. Then one turned toward her, and then another. Finally, we had five whales around her. It was very exciting."

This 45-minute film concentrates on three types of whales: the giant blue whale, the humpback, and the right whale. Rather than focus on a slew of scientific facts, "Whales" tends to play on the dramatic. For instance, it shows a mother-daughter team, humpbacks Misty and Echo, who must travel from Hawaii to killer-whale-infested Alaskan waters to reach their summer feeding grounds. Toward the end of the film, viewers learn that the mother and her young calf safely reach their destination. The film also provides beautiful panoramic scenes of steep cliffs and mountainsides.

David Ellis, president and director of the Boston museum, says its goal is to try to make science more accessible, especially for young people. "It brings important knowledge about whales in an engaging, inspiring, and even awe-inspiring way. To see this film is to understand and to care in new ways."

Indeed, Payne would like viewers to learn how valuable whales are to the world's environment and to help stop whaling.

To anyone who has gone whale watching on charter boats (and, to the dismay of some, no whale sightings), this film guarantees you won't be disappointed.

*'Whales' will be shown around the world simultaneously and will stay at these theaters for several months or more. Here are a few dates: Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 5; the Cosmos Filmtheater in Vienna on Jan. 15; Louisville Science Center in Kentucky on Jan. 18; and the Pink Palace in Memphis on March 8.

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