World travel simplified

Simulating visits to faraway places

Published: May 15 2016, 01:01:am

Tuesday, April 29, 1986.

VACATION PLANNING? EXPO 86 filmmakers offer several attractive destinations in a variety of vehicles.
    Visitor involvement is the object. Taking the fair's transportation theme as their inspiration, several pavilions feature simulated trips to distant places.
    At the Czechoslovakian Pavilion, fairgoers will be carried away by a process called Actorscope. To make the illusion work, audience members are seated with their backs to the movie screen, facing a mirrored wall.
    During the 10-minute program, they see themselves in the picture, lifting off from Stanley Park for a flight to Prague in a hot-air balloon.
    A safari via balloon is featured in the Kenya Pavilion. Recalling Expo 67's Labyrinth, the Kenyans have set one screen flat on the floor and another at right angles to it on the wall. Their five-minute show is viewed from a platform and features aerial footage of the African wilderness.    
    Visitors to the People's Republic of China Pavilion are invited aboard a full-sized riverboat for a simulated sailing through the Yangtze River's Three Gorges. A back-projection system provides the visuals.
    Closer to home, the Washington Pavilion will whisk fairgoers through the Pacific state's version of the Northwest Passage. A moving sidewalk, called the Travolator, keeps the audience moving past a 38-metre-long screen upon which appear visual impressions of our neighbour to the immediate south.
    At the Air Canada Pavilion, visitors are seated above and behind an actual Lockheed L-10A to view the airline's 15-minute Kaleidoscope presentation. The multi-image slide show's subject is aviation history, and it begins with the vintage passenger aircraft starting its motors to "take off" into the tale.
    The edge of space is the destination at the United States Pavilion. Included among its many space-oriented attractions is a six-minute 70mm film carrying visitors aloft on a NASA shuttle mission.

The above is a restored version of a Province Expo 86 preview feature by Michael Walsh originally published in 1986. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Unbeknownst to fairgoers, two of the six recommended vacations were limited time offers. American space shuttle missions are now a thing of the past, and those riverboat views of China's Three Gorges are no more. In 2003, the People's Republic completed its Three Gorges Dam, a nine-year-long construction project on the Yangtze River. The result was the world's largest hydroelectric power station and the permanent alteration of the scenic landscape as the water level behind the dam rose over 90 metres (300 feet). Some 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages disappeared beneath the waters of the 600 km-long (370 mile) reservoir, necessitating the relocation of 1.24 million people. Yangtze River cruises remain a popular tourist attraction, but the sights seen from the boat decks are not what they once were.
    In 1986, kids could still dream of heading for the final frontier aboard one of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's three surviving shuttlecraft. True, memories of the January 1986 Challenger disaster were still raw as space-suited guides welcomed visitors to a U.S. Pavilion that emphasized the nation's "place in space." Even before the first orbiter lifted off in 1981, NASA-style manned spacecraft had entered the popular culture via the 1979 James Bond feature Moonraker. The space shuttle was celebrated in the Expo-year teen adventure SpaceCamp, and later had starring roles in such A-list adventures as Armageddon (1998) and Space Cowboys (2000). In 2003, the disintegration of the Columbia during re-entry again reminded us of the dangers of space flight. The program ended when the Atlantis returned to earth on July 21, 2011, the last of 135 shuttle missions. In a sense, the multiple-award-winning 2013 feature Gravity, in which Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as shuttle astronauts, was an homage to the retired fleet and its true-life adventures.

See also: The 13 articles included in this, the first of four Expo 86 special reports, are:
01: Expo86 Introduction
02: Expo86 Connections
03: Expo86 The Czechs
04: Expo86 In the Circle
05: Expo86 3-D
06: Expo86 Showscan
07: Expo86 IMAX
08: Expo86 Holovision
09: Expo86 Video
10: Expo86 Days

11: Expo86 Trips
12: Expo86 Multi-Screens
13: Expo86 Off Site