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Film Review: “Turtle Odyssey”

“Turtle Odyssey” plays daily at 12, 2, 4 and 6 pm.
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Many people (like me) had a little bitty turtle or two as pets when we were kids. But mostly, when I think turtle, I see the Mock Turtle singing “Beautiful Soup” in  the musical version of “Alice in Wonderland.”

But now the Fleet Science Center brings all of us into reality with its fascinating new IMAX film “Turtle Odyssey.”

Narrated by Australian actor Russell Crowe, “Turtle Odyssey” illustrates with astonishing cinematography the life cycle of a green sea turtle whose home turf is Raine Island, on the outer edges of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. (Florida and the American eastern seaboard are also home to a population of sea turtles.)

The turtle in question is Bunji, a word which means “friend” in the native Australian language Warlpiri. We meet Bunji as a hatchling – the last of her siblings, in fact, to make the difficult journey across the sand to the ocean, where she will begin a big across-the-ocean adventure that will take her some 500 miles before she returns home.

Thanks to cinematographer Jon Shaw, we get to go along on Bunji’s trip, which involves both seeing (and fleeing) predators and getting close to a huge friendly Dugong (whose closest modern relative, the sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century).

Australia’s green sea turtle population is declining. In fact, it is half what it was 100 years ago. Predators such as ghost crabs, birds, and large fish are threats, as is ingested human-left toxic junk like plastic bags. Only one in 1000 hatchlings will survive to maturity.

Because sea turtles live mostly on seagrass (though they’ll eat crustaceans and molluscs if they find them), Bunji will catch a series of rides on seaweed rafts. These rafts aren’t bad hiding places, either.

But still, Bunji must learn who is friend, who is foe and who is just a fellow traveler in the ocean – and one mistake could be one too many. And thanks to Jon Shaw’s terrific cinematography, we get a fascinating tour of the undersea environment, including some of the creatures who live there.

By the time Bunji returns to the Great Reef, she’ll weigh in at 250 pounds and be ready for the next stage of her life – finding a boyfriend and becoming a mom.

“Turtle Odyssey” plays daily at the Fleet Science Center at noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm.

Tickets: www.fleetscience.org