IMAX and zoologist put us in touch with the sharks

November 12, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

The best moment in "Search for the Great Sharks," the new feature at the Maryland Science Center's IMAX theater, is oddly quiet.

We are aboard a research vessel floating on a calm sea, as the sky presses down and ocean birds sail overhead. It's a scene of pure, heightened anticipation that stretches out for a long, long moment until . . .

Wham! The jaws of a great white shark break the surface and attack a bait fish floating from a surface buoy.

That transition from serenity to sudden violence symbolizes why sharks so terrify us, of course -- and why they fascinate us, too.

"Search for the Great Sharks" makes it possible to understand the impulse of Dr. Eugenie Clark, seen in the film standing in a steel cage as big sharks swim near, to reach out a hand to stroke the side of a passing monster.

Dr. Clark, an international shark authority who is a zoologist at the University of Maryland College Park, provides the focus of the film, along with Rodney Fox, another shark expert, who was severely mauled by a great white in 1963.

"I've come to really appreciate them," says Mr. Fox in the film, as we see him preparing to descend amid great whites inside a clear, cylindrical tube. His whole upper torso looks scored by scar tissue, like a butcher's chart showing the cuts of a side of beef.

In a scene filmed at the New York Aquarium, Dr. Clark relates how she first saw sharks swimming in the very same place when she was 9.

"I wanted to be in there with them," she says, adding she never imagined them to be dangerous.

The scientist is 70 now, but still actively diving. She told a preview screening audience at the science center yesterday she had just returned from Baja, Mexico, where she swam with huge whale sharks.

In "Search for the Great Sharks," we see fascinating footage of divers filming the docile, non-carnivorous whale sharks in Australia. They are the largest of the species, reaching 50 feet long and weighing up to 20 tons.

The film makes the case that we should admire and study sharks, not fear them. Dr. Clark makes the point the sleek swimmers have survived for some 350 million years, "and have very few enemies -- until we entered their realm."

'Search for the Great Sharks'

Where: Maryland Science Center IMAX Theater

When: Noon, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and hourly from 11 a.m. on weekends, through May 26

Tickets: Included with Science Center admission of $8.50 adults, $6.50 children 4-17, senior citizens and military personnel

Call: (410) 685-5225; TDD, (410) 962-0223

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