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Mysteries of the Great Lakes Educator's Guide


 

About the Film

Embark on a voyage of discovery with the new giant screen IMAX® film Mysteries of the Great Lakes

Did you know that 40 million people live along the Great Lakes?  Of those 40 million people, one in every three Canadians, and one in every seven Americans rely on the Great Lakes for their freshwater.

Mysteries of the Great Lakes is a timely film. All across the Great Lakes basin, there is a renewed interest in the health of the Lakes, and an increased awareness about the importance of this freshwater resource to the social and economic vitality of North America.  Dubbed ‘inland seas’ by early European explorers, the Great Lakes have some of the most spectacular wilderness scenery on Earth, and a fifth of all of the planet’s freshwater.

Mysteries of the Great Lakes is as much a celebration of Earth’s greatest freshwater ecosystem as it is a rallying cry for protection.  The story takes audiences on a beautiful journey through these amazing inland seas, with some key stops along the way that highlight the different messages that can be shared through the stories of three key species — the woodland caribou, Bald Eagle and lake sturgeon; each one representing either land, air or water.

The film also turns the camera on humans – touching on the human interface with the Lakes including the vital role of shipping to commerce, the use of water by the millions of people who rely on it, and the general sense of well-being that people get from their association with these massive bodies of water. 

The life thread through the Mysteries of the Great Lakes story is a remarkable species of fish that pre-dates dinosaurs and the efforts to bring it back from the edge of extinction.  The lake sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in the world.  This living fossil has survived for over 100 million years, virtually unchanged.  It can grow to weigh an astonishing 300 pounds, and can live to be nearly 200 years old. 

At one point, lake sturgeons was so plentiful that they represented 90% of the Great Lakes biomass.  In the late 1800s, due to over-fishing and the destruction and pollution of their spawning beds, the sturgeon population crashed. 

Mysteries of the Great Lakes portrays the work that is being done to solve the mysteries surrounding this resilient fish species, and the efforts that are being undertaken to prevent extinction.

The amazing recovery of the Bald Eagle is another story that is revealed in Mysteries of the Great Lakes. Bald Eagles were once common sights in the skies throughout North America – including the Great Lakes shoreline.   However, due to the effects of the pesticide DDT in the 1950s, they all but disappeared, and the Bald Eagle faced the possibility of extinction.  Today, the Great Lakes’ Bald Eagles are recovering slowly, but still face several obstacles.

The story of the woodland caribou introduces us to the Slate Islands – an ecological haven, protected by the elements, that has allowed the caribou to follow its own evolutionary path.  The Islands are inhabited by the largest remaining woodland caribou herd in the Great Lakes region, and over the course of more than 100 years on the islands, they have evolved some unusual biological adaptations. 

The Slate Islands are a part of a new Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area that stretches from Isle Royale to the Slate Islands, and includes territory on both sides of the Canada/USA border.  It is one of the largest freshwater sanctuaries in the world.

Audiences are also be introduced to Presque Isle State Park, which stretches out into Lake Erie.  It is one of the last protected regions on the south side of Erie, and features six distinct ecological zones, each with a different plant and animal community.  Due to the diversity of ecological zones at Presque Isle State Park, many different species of plants and wildlife inhabit the park – from the shoreline to the climax forest.  Ontario’s Presqu’ile Provincial Park plays a similar role for Lake Ontario, and has over 300,000 breeding birds on its protected island sanctuaries.

No journey through the Great Lakes would be complete without a nautical component.  Shipping has been at the centre of the development of this continent from the first voyageur freighter canoes to the massive freighters of today.    However, commerce is a risky business.  The Great Lakes are prone to sudden and severe storms, and have claimed many ships – often with partial or total loss of crew.  It is estimated that between 6,000 and 10,000 ships have sunk or been stranded since the early 1800s.  The most famous shipwreck, happened on November 10, 1975 when Lake Superior claimed the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald – the last major freighter to be lost on the Great Lakes. 

The scenery and wildlife captured through the IMAX lens for Mysteries of the Great Lakes is spectacular, and unlike anything ever captured for this medium before.  The film’s producer and director, David Lickley, has woven together a visual masterpiece that takes audiences on a voyage of discovery from one end of the Great Lakes to the other, while highlighting the need for us all to become dedicated stewards of our environment in order to protect the Great Lakes – precious natural resources that contain one-fifth of the planet’s freshwater.  The awe-inspiring visuals in this film are complemented by a soundtrack, which includes the talents of iconic Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot.

By the time the film’s final credits roll, viewers will have visited many of the mysteries of the Great Lakes in a powerful and unforgettable way. Mysteries of the Great Lakes will take all who experience it on a voyage of discovery – one that will lead to the development of a greater appreciation for the Great Lakes, and a lasting commitment to preserving this vitally important lake system.

With the creation of Mysteries of the Great Lakes, Science North in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada has become a leading producer of giant screen films in Canada.  It is the only science centre in the world with an in-house large format film production unit, and it has built a reputation as a specialist in environmental and natural history themes.  Science North has also won several awards within the giant screen films industry.

In 2008, with the launch of Mysteries of the Great Lakes, Science North expanded its role in the industry, by also becoming a distributor of giant screen films.  Since 1994, Science North has created four large format films, including Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees, Gold Fever, and Bears.  These films have been produced and directed by Science North’s David Lickley, with Science North CEO James Marchbank serving as Executive Producer.  The production budget for Mysteries of the Great Lakes is $6 million dollars.

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