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The big picture: ‘Humpback Whales’ follows one of world’s largest creatures

A captivating documentary that follows the habits of one of the most majestic creatures of the sea has come to the Lockheed Martin DynaTheater.

Underwater cameraman Howard Hall films humpbacks in Tonga. (Courtesy of Michele Hall/Macgillivray Freeman Films And Pacific Life)

“Humpback Whales 3-D” follows one of the largest animals in the world through Alaska, Hawaii and the remote islands of Tonga. It gives audiences a rare look at how the whales communicate, sing, feed, play and care for their young, according to a news release on the film. The film, which opens today at the DynaTheater, inside the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, is narrated by two-time Golden Globe nominee Ewan McGregor.

“In New Mexico, we are nowhere near the ocean,” said Mike Pacheco, DynaTheater manager. “I thought it would a very good fitting for people to see, because sometimes people don’t get out to see the ocean, but we can bring the ocean to them. Basically our whole idea behind bringing ‘Humpback Whales’ was to help people get educated about what’s going on in the ocean.”

The distances these intelligent animals travel stood out to Pacheco, as well as the fact that the whales are found in every ocean on earth. The whales, weighing up to 40 tons and measuring up to 60 feet long, migrate as much as 10,000 miles round trip every year.

“They go from Alaska all the way down to past California in their migration route, and it’s such a huge distance and that really stands out to me how far these whales will go to make sure that they have the right nourishment to raise their calves and make sure they go to great lengths to have their babies in the right environment,” Pacheco said.

Distance is not the only thing the whales have overcome. The whales were almost driven to extinction 50 years ago and are making a gradual recovery.

“It’s like a good Cinderella story,” Pacheco said. “It’s been one of our biggest things, is they were driven so close to extinction, it was one of those things where they were almost gone. Through the hard work of all these scientists who teach us about what’s going on out there and show us that they’re very important in the bigger scope of the food chain of the ocean, and I think people really resonated from that, and I think it’s really helped to bring them back from that brink of extinction.”

The DynaTheater is the ideal place to show this documentary to present these gigantic whales in all of their glory.

“We use two styles of 3-D,” Pacheco said. “We use, of course, polarized filtering, and we use a form of the old school 3-D, the red and blue. And so that helps to give depth to the film, and it also helps it to pop off the screen more. So you get the full range, when you look in the distance, it looks like it’s in the distance, or when an animal is coming close to you, it looks like it’s coming really close to you. It’s really amazing.”