Today's hyped extreme events and manipulated survivor scenarios can't compete with "The Great Adventure Series" at the Science Center's Omnimax Theater, now through January 29, 2004. Distinctly different in style and content, Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West, Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure and Everest use, respectively, reenactments, archival film and photographs, and video footage to flesh out their remarkable tales. Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Liam Neeson provide mellifluous voiceover narration with effective, though often unnecessary, music.
Lewis & Clark recounts the 28-month, 8,000 mile exploration and mapping of the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, which yielded scientific descriptions of 122 previously undocumented animals and 178 plants. Actors in historically accurate costumes re-create the ordeal of portaging impassible rapids or dragging pirogues and canoes upstream, fighting mosquitoes and ticks, surviving snow storms and months of rain, and enduring subzero temperatures and severe hunger to fulfill their mission. In their encounters with more than 170 Native American tribes, the most important expedition member is Toussaint Charbonneau's sixteen-year-old Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, who joins the group in November 1804 and delivers a son in February 1805. Meticulous research provides illuminating details, among them the preferred spelling for Sacagawea and the mention of York, the only black man and slave to vote as a full participant of the group.
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure occurs more than 100 years after Lewis and Clark's expedition but presents an equally amazing, albeit more harrowing trip, also lasting more than two years -- August 1, 1914 to August 30, 1916. Desiring to make the first trek across Antarctica, Ernest Shackleton leads 28 men into pack ice that immobilizes and, after 326 days, crushes their ship, Endurance. The group then floats for five months on drifting ice floes, miraculously landing on Elephant Island. Isolated there, outside shipping lanes, Shackleton takes five of the strongest men with him in a lifeboat and travels 800 miles through ferocious storms to another unbelievable landing -- the uninhabited side of South Georgia Island. Now Shackleton teams with two exhausted men to hike 30 miles across high mountains, traversing glaciers and snow fields, to reach a whaling station -- a trek retraced with difficulty today by three expert climbers. Without fail, Frank Hurley, official photographer of the voyage, recorded astonishing film and photographs integrated into this mind-boggling tale -- not one man is lost.
Revisiting Everest proves as exhilarating as when it screened here originally in 1998. The 1996 climb documented in the film celebrates the triumphant summiting of, among others, Jamling Tenzing Norgay, whose Sherpa father accompanied Edmund Hillary in 1953 for the first successful ascent on the 29,028-foot, awe-inspiring mountain. In addition, Everest eulogizes eight tragic deaths that same May and describes the extraordinary physical demands the mountain requires of those who challenge it.
"The Great Adventure Series" rotates the three films (each approximately 45 minutes) daily with on-the-hour screenings at the Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue. Individual tickets cost $6-$7; tickets for all three films cost $14-$15. Group discounts are available with reservations. Call 314-289-4444 or 800-456-SLSC for more information, or visit the Web site at www.slsc.org.