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Originally published Friday, February 18, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Time travel, wild times on "Nile"

What are a few crocodiles, suicidal rapids, malaria and gun-toting bandits when one is trying to make history? Pasquale Scaturro, a geophysicist...

Special to The Seattle Times

What are a few crocodiles, suicidal rapids, malaria and gun-toting bandits when one is trying to make history?

Pasquale Scaturro, a geophysicist who led a successful Mount Everest expedition in 2001, and Gordon Brown, a filmmaker and kayaker, teamed in 2003 to embark on a four-month descent, on rafts, of the Nile River from source to sea. Similar attempts by past adventurers had ended prematurely. But Scaturro and Brown were determined to navigate the treacherous Blue Nile from its origins in the Ethiopian Highlands to its merger with the White Nile in Khartoum.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer 3 stars

"Mystery of the Nile," a documentary with Pasquale Scaturro, Gordon Brown. Written and directed by Jordi Llompart. 47 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. Pacific Science Center's Boeing IMAX Theater.

Traveling with them were scholars, a journalist, a photographer and an IMAX film team lugging cumbersome cameras and equipment. The resulting documentary, "Mystery of the Nile," is a startling record of the adventurers' progress, setbacks and encounters with natives and antiquities as they make their way to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

The film focuses on the Nile's historical importance to the varied cultures, religions, agriculture and general survival of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Part of the mystery of "Mystery" is discovering haunting evidence of destruction whenever people have grown out of sorts with the Nile's surrounding ecosystems. An ancient ghost town in the arid plains of Sudan suggests the former presence of a rich Nubian culture cut short by the felling of too many trees. A scientist on the "Mystery" team finds high concentrations of saline in Ethiopian soil as the result of more recent, riverside deforestation.

Directed by Jordi Llompart (with second-unit direction by Redmond-based Richard Bangs, editor-at-large for Expedia), "Mystery" includes several dazzling sequences. A religious ritual at a temple carved from a single stone moves like a dream. Rafts capsizing on violent rapids and a scene in which Brown is fired upon by a thief in a canyon are true nail-biters.

Most memorable, however, is the laughter and delight of people everywhere who encounter "Mystery's" crazy explorers as they make their way to the sea.

Tom Keogh:

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