Monday, September 19, 2005


IMAX documentary

Spaniards were the first Europeans to establish a permanent presence in the Americas. In terms of land area, Spain's was the largest of the colonial empires in the New World and included the following holdings: Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico as well as The Bahamas and some other smaller islands; all of Mexico and most of Central America; large sections of South America; all of Florida and the South-western quarter of what is now the United States of America, better known as their Louisiana holdings. This territory comprised far more land than just the present state of Louisiana since it included land stretching from present–day Florida all the way to Oregon on the Pacific coast.

In 1800 Spain ceded the territory to France. Napoleon Bonaparte had always envisioned a great French presence in the New World, and he hoped to use the newly acquired territory as a food and trade centre to supply the island of Hispaniola, which was to be the heart of this overseas empire.

But facing renewed war with Great Britain, he could not spare troops to defend the territory and he needed funds to support his military ventures in Europe. Accordingly he offered to sell the land to the United States.

Described by some as the greatest real estate deal in history, the Louisiana Purchase approved by treaty in April of 1803, transferred from France to the United States over 800,000 square miles of land. Overnight it doubled the size of the United States. The price was 60 million francs; adjusted for inflation this would be about $200 million in 2005 dollars, which works out to $250 per square mile.

Meriweather Lewis, a 28 year-old naturalist and U.S. Army captain
William Clark, his close friend, 32 years-old and with the same rank

All the expected elements of an IMAX movie are there: stunning photography, excellent narration and a story worth telling. In this case, it’s about a group of 31 people, including one woman and her infant son, and their three-year journey to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean--the fabled Northwest Passage – through the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase.


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