Dr. Gina Moseley crosses the small lake inside the mouth of Grotte de Gournier in Vercors, France
photo by Credit Oceanic Research Group
A new film premiering this Friday at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater invites viewers to delve into some of Earth’s most alluring and hidden places.
Descending deep beneath the surface or submerged far below the waves lie extraordinary secrets hidden in the sprawling caverns and claustrophobic crannies of cave systems. These remarkable — and often alien — environments are unlike any other location on the planet and serve as the focal point for Ancient Caves 3D, which explores how these subterranean habitats hold the key to better understanding climatic changes on the surface.
“These deep underwater caves are other-worldly, like something straight out of a sci-fi film, and viewers can expect to see things they’ve never seen before,” says director and Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Jonathan Bird. “The film has something for everyone, whether its adventure, science, or just pure beauty.”
Audiences plunge into a spelunking adventure with paleoclimatologist Dr. Gina Moseley as she ventures into the expansive underground worlds above and below the water in France, Iceland, the Bahamas, the U.S., and Mexico. Few humans have visited these remote caves, but Ancient Caves 3D offers audiences a rare chance to experience their majesty through stunning footage that captures their full breadth and scale.
Through the incredible resolution and sound of the theater's IMAX with Laser audio-visual system, viewers will feel like they’re exploring these caves: SCUBA diving, climbing, crawling — and occasionally getting stuck — in search of geological clues to our planet’s distant past.
For residents of the Tennessee Valley, in particular, this film touches on a geological fact of life. Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, an aquatic biologist with the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, has described this part of the country as “living atop a block of Swiss cheese.”
“We live above a vast cave and karst region that is amazing to explore,” says Dr. Kuhajda.
In addition to experiencing their spectacular geological formations, Dr. Kuhajda has snorkeled many cave systems to study aquatic animals that only can be found in these subterranean locales and whose existence can directly reflect the health of our water.
“We have cave fishes, cave shrimp, and cave crayfishes living in the pristine waters of caves across Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia," he says. "They are environmental bell-weathers of what’s happening to the groundwater that many people in the Southeast depend upon for drinking water.”
Dr. Kuhajda says he believes providing an exciting opportunity to see the aquatic cave systems in Ancient Caves 3D can help many people better appreciate the importance and beauty of these hidden worlds.
With the surrounding region’s cave-rich environment, fans of the film can embark on their own extraordinary underground adventures without traveling to the far-flung reaches of the planet.
The tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public is just minutes from the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater.
Ruby Falls, the local presenting sponsor of Ancient Caves 3D, welcomes over one million guests each year who marvel over the thunderous cascade that spills for 145 feet deep within Lookout Mountain.
“It is incredible timing that we celebrate National Day of Caves & Karst on June the 6th and now welcome Ancient Caves 3D to our city the same week,” says Hugh Morrow, Ruby Falls president and CEO. “What an honor it is to support and sponsor this educational adventure so that we can continue our quest to learn more about the different environments both above and below ground.”
Narrated by Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston, Ancient Caves 3D was the 2022 winner of the Giant Screen Cinema Association film awards for best film, best film for lifelong learning, and best cinematography.
A longtime favorite 45-minute film will flutter back to the IMAX 3D Theater in a few short weeks. Flight of the Butterflies 3D will run from June 16 to 22 in conjunction with National Pollinator Week, which raises awareness for pollinators and the need to protect them.
This spectacular film was recently digitally remastered to immerse audiences in one of Earth’s longest and most perilous migrations. Filmmakers were able to follow hundreds of millions of (now endangered) Monarch Butterflies into their secret hideaway in the mountains of Mexico. As they join the filmmakers on this quest, viewers will learn about these endangered pollinators' vital role in their ecosystem and how people can lend a helping hand to aid monarchs and other native species.
Viewers have a few final chances to catch one of the year’s most critically acclaimed superhero films before it leaves IMAX. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is as visually stunning and creatively daring as its 2018 predecessor, Into the Spider-Verse. This animated hit runs through June 8.
Next in a lineup of epic feature films is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which will run from June 9 to 15. The seventh installment of the Transformers live-action franchise, Rise of the Beasts brings the epic scale of its signature transforming robots to the giant screen in typical action-packed style.
June’s powerhouse lineup is rounded out by another superhero blockbuster: D.C.’s highly-anticipated The Flash. The Scarlet Speedster's big screen debut comes to the IMAX 3D Theater on June 15 and runs through June 29. This feature-length installment sees the titular supersonic hero traveling back in time to prevent his mother’s death, trapping him in an alternate reality that features an all-new Supergirl and the return of actor Michael Keaton as the caped crusader, Batman.
For showtimes, tickets and more information for all films, visit https://tnaqua.org/imax/.
Research divers Brian Kakuk and Todd Kelly examine a “Christmas Tree” stalagmite in the crystal section of the Crystal Cave of Abaco, Bahamas
photo by Credit Oceanic Research Group