Most science fiction movies are based loosely on science. Usually, this means they make a few technical or impossible leaps to move the plot forward but generally adhere to the basic laws of science. But in most cases, filmmakers are forgiven for their science-defying sins as long as the story makes up for it. In contrast, Endless Descent (aka The Rift) seems to delight in making so many impossible and incredulous scientific leaps, that they grow to a level of absurdity that transcends the believable.
There is a legend, spawned deep in the mysterious kelp forests of southern California, of the killer abalone. On extremely rare occasions, conditions align with a violation of the abalone code that triggers the rare spawn of the trio of terror in the abalone universe: the red, the black, and their offspring, the pink abalone. So it was during the El Niño of the early 1980s that such an event occurred, much to the detriment of all those involved and future world peace.
“What’s your depth?” echoed down from the surface radio, unanswered for the third time in a row and sounding increasingly desperate. It was 2002 and I was riding inside the scientific submersible Delta, heading towards the seafloor off Anacapa island in an area known simply as the “footprint,” a deep-water fish, coral and sponge hot spot…
The idea of the Kraken appears in Melville’s Moby Dick in 1851; played a major role in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870; and appeared as the Watcher in the Water in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, lurking in a lake beneath the western walls of Moria. The truth is that the giant squid, which may have been the basis for most of these myths and legends, has a real-life story almost as mysterious as unicorns and dragons.
As a marine biologist and surfer I have spent a lot of time on and in the ocean. And while surveying the shore, riding waves, scuba diving, or being underwater in a submersible, I have developed a great respect for the sea. She is all-powerful, magnificent, unpredictable, inspiring, and terrifying all at once. And there are moments you face the realization that you are helpless, the sea is in control, that you may die; all you can do is surrender to its power. It is a completely sublime, humbling but ultimately a life changing experience.
The year was 1987 and I was searching for a place where black abalone were largely undisturbed so I could complete my dissertation. The island was the perfect location: isolated, difficult to access, federally protected, and surrounded by seal- and shark- infested waters. During my first low tide on the island I was ecstatic: blacks were common and it was the perfect place to conduct a study but there were elephant seals everywhere.
First contact between humanity and a sentient alien race is depicted as either a hallmark moment with enormous benefits for the planet (e.g., Contact, Star Trek) or the beginning of a hostile take-over and the end of humanity (e.g., War of the Worlds, Independence Day). Under either scenario the aliens are seen as more advanced, with superior technology, and…