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Shark-infested paradise on the Space Museum's giant screen

Cocos Island, the uninhibited paradise 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica that Robert Louis Stevenson called "Treasure Island", is also known as "Island of the Sharks".

This is a place boasting the world's highest concentration of large marine predators. White-tip, hammerhead, black-tip and silky sharks in schools by the hundreds congregate in greater number here than anywhere in the world. It is an underwater extravaganza where beauty and danger co-exist.

A new Omnimax show "Island of the Sharks", to be screened from April 1 to September 30, 2005 at the Stanley Ho Space Theatre of the Hong Kong Space Museum, will take audiences into this adventuresome water world to discover the undersea wonders of Cocos Island.

Located far west of Central America in the Pacific Ocean, Cocos Island is an underwater mountain rising thousands of feet from the sea floor. Sunlight and nutrient-rich water spur the growth of plankton like comb jellies, spiny lobsters and blue-button jellies, that form the basis of the food chain for a dazzling array of sea creatures.

The film captures various types of marine predators in Cocos Island waters. White-tip reef sharks cruise the reef to hunt for injured and trapped fish with their basic instinct to sense the electric field generated by the twitch of a muscle and detect the faintest smell of blood. Hammerhead sharks use special electromagnetic sensors in their distinctive heads to locate prey and navigate across the vast open ocean.

The treacherous waters are fraught with natural hazards. Sea lions and marlin herd the frantic fish into a ball that spins like a tornado, then trap them against the surface. The fish cannot escape, and are eaten.

Predators stalk predators. Green jacks gather high above the reef to feed while sharks, tuna and rainbow runners move in for the attack. The jacks begin to revolve like a living maelstrom for protection but are finally seized by the brown boobies and frigate birds.

The film also shows the audience that the underwater world is not merely hunter and the hunted. Some sea creatures live in the spirit of cooperation. Barberfish clean tiny parasites from their larger neighbours including hammerhead sharks, giving them relief from irritating parasites.

Cocos Island is a paradise for a dazzling array of sea creatures. But it is under the global weather effect of a phenomenon knows as El Nino every few years. The water grows warmer and it causes the plankton-based food web to collapse. With a diminishing food supply, sea creatures leave for other seamounts.

The 40-minute Omnimax show will be screened at 3.50pm and 7.20pm daily at the Space Museum. Additional shows will be scheduled at 12.20pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The Space Museum is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Tickets are available at the Space Museum Box Office and at all URBTIX outlets at $24 (front stalls) and $32 (stalls), with half-price concession for full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities.

A panel exhibit, which provides audiences with a basic knowledge of marine biology as well as exploding some misconceptions, will be set up in the lobby of the Space Museum during the film's screening period.

The Space Museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. For further information, call 2721 0226 or visit the museum's website at .

Ends/Tuesday, March 29, 2005
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