A silvery wall of sharks darts around the corner straight at you. Turning, you find yourself in a dazzling marine metropolis, a kaleidoscopic realm of tiny life forms living hundreds of feet below the surface in peaceful partnerships. An octopus hides in plain sight among the corals, perfectly camouflaged, while a lionfish waves its feathery, but poisonous, spines. Suddenly, a 300-pound potato cod, feeling threatened, changes its spots right before your eyes. Meanwhile, a cleaner shrimp, wiggling its tiny antennae, swims boldly towards your mouth looking for dinner between your teeth.
Welcome to a world unlike any other, a world that has been called the “soul of the sea.” This is life on a coral reef – where some of the planet’s most diverse, fascinating and mysterious landscapes and creatures exist hidden from our sight. It is a world few humans will ever experience up close, yet one that helps sustain the very balance of life on earth, and one that might contain solutions to human medical problems. Now it is under siege.
The story of the reefs and how they’ve come to face worldwide decline is brought to life in Coral Reef Adventure. Following husband and wife cinematography team Howard and Michele Hall on a 10-month quest, the film takes audiences on a fantastic voyage of discovery to the South Pacific’s reefs, revealing both their remarkable contribution to life on earth and the imminent dangers they face right now.
Found in more than 100 countries around the world in sun-drenched waters in the tropics, coral reefs comprise just one percent of the ocean yet nurture one quarter of all marine life. Coral reefs are the underwater equivalent of tropical rainforests, rivaling and at times exceeding their terrestrial counterparts in diversity. But Coral Reef Adventure goes beyond a science lesson in reef biology. It is an inspiring personal tale of courage and hope, a story of ordinary men and women seeking to make a difference for the planet’s most vulnerable environments. As the Halls journey across the Pacific, they take part in a growing global effort – one that crosses borders and cultures – to protect and sustain reefs for future generations.
Other than dedicated divers, few people are given the opportunity to explore a coral reef and learn of its incredible potential to sustain and enhance life. While most land surfaces on earth have been extensively mapped and explored, only 10% of the known reefs in the Pacific Ocean have been visited by scientists.
Howard and Michele Hall’s journey begins in the flourishing nationally protected Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the largest natural architectural structure on earth. The Halls use these teeming, impressively healthy reefs as a benchmark for observing reefs in other locations. Concerned for what might be happening to other, less-protected reefs in the Pacific, the Halls set sail for Fiji , 2000 miles away. There, they team up with renowned conservationist Jean-Michael Cousteau, who continues the Cousteau legacy as an advocate for the care of healthy coral environments. “Coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is now sick and dying,” warns Cousteau. “When coral reefs suffer, it is a sign there is something seriously wrong with the natural balance of our planet. The world has to wake up and take dramatic action to stop this trend before it’s too late.”
It is in Fiji that the Halls endure their greatest test – a series of dangerous dives to depths over 350 feet. At these depths, standard SCUBA equipment is inadequate to support a diver, so high-tech mixed-gas closed-circuit rebreathers are required. The Halls are joined by deep reef scientist and deep-diving pioneer Richard Pyle. Pyle’s specialty is studying fish and other species found on the reefs located at depths greater than 200 feet. Millions of new species remain to be discovered at these depths, and Pyle is leading the charge to uncover these mysteries.
Howard Hill’s deep-reef filming of Pyle went reasonably well until one dive when Howard’s underwater communication system failed, causing him to become distracted. He forgot to turn an important switch on his rebreather, which regulates the gas mixture he breathes. Combined with the incredible physical exertion necessary to film at such depths, the error caused Howard to develop a life-threatening case of decompression sickness, or what divers call “the bends.” After spending eight hours underwater trying to decompress, Howard was rushed to the town of Suva where he spent 18 hours in Fiji ’s only hyperbaric chamber, a critical move that likely saved his life.
“Our film was born out of passion for the world’s oceans,” says producer/director Greg MacGillivray. “Howard and Michele have taken the IMAX camera into these underwater worlds so audiences will experience these far-off, magical places that nevertheless are absolutely vital to our survival as a species. Lucky for us, Howard and Michele were uniquely suited for the risky logistics of filming in this extreme environment. Their story is one of great human adventure and real hope for the future of coral reefs.”
Coral Reef Adventure was produced in association with the Museum of Science in Boston , the National Wildlife Federation, Lowell , Blake and Associates, and the Museum Film Network, and with major funding from the National Science Foundation.
Closed Caption | Amplified Narration | Wheelchair Accessible