Finding Cameron’s “Titanic” Floating Mountains in China

Finding Cameron’s “Titanic” Floating Mountains in China

With filmmaker James Cameron in the news following his solo dive to the Marianas Trench and the re-release of Titanic, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the ship’s collision with an iceberg, I’ve been reminded of his 3-D eco-extravaganza, Avatar, and its amazing scenery.  I was lucky enough to shoot the mountains that were the inspiration for the floating peaks of the movie’s Pandora. They’re in Wulingyuan National Park in Zhangjiajie of China’s Hunan Province, a 266-square- mile preserve that includes a stone forest of 3100 quartz sandstone pillars, lush valleys, dense forests, a mountain lake, caves, waterfalls and streams.  Even without the help of CGI and 3D, it’s easy to see why Avatar’s set designers chose Wulingyuan as the model for the fictional world of Pandora.

The most memorable of the peaks, the one featured in the posters for Avatar, seems to be floating in space.  As part of a move to capitalize on the huge popularity of Avatar in China, this 3544 -foot tall pillar of sandstone was recently renamed the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.  “Pandora is far, but Zhangjiajie is near,” goes the marketing slogan. And lest anyone forget the movie, huge billboards and flat-screen tvs blast reminders of Avatar at the entrance and throughout the park.

©Michael Yamashita

A forested island in a sea of mist, formerly known as the Southern Sky Column, is now Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

©Michael Yamashita

©Michael Yamashita

©Michael Yamashita

©Michael Yamashita

©Michael Yamashita

©Michael Yamashita

More otherworldly pictures from Wulingyuan

©Michael Yamashita
©Michael Yamashita
©Michael Yamashita

The world’s longest cable car carries would-be Pandorans up into the Tianzi mountains in the park.

©Michael Yamashita
©Michael Yamashita
©Michael Yamashita

Winter snows add an even more mystical element to Wulingyuan’s eerie landscape.

©Michael Yamashita

Baofeng Lake is surrounded by lush foliage, and its emerald waters reflect the wild scenery surrounding it.

©Michael Yamashita

The world’s highest outdoor elevator, dubbed Hundred Dragon Elevator, emerges from a stone cavern into the sandstone mountains. The rice paddy in the sky (seen in foreground) is tended by local farmers.

©Michael Yamashita

The photographer aboard a model of a Pandoran banshee, courtesy CGI at the Park’s Photo Booth. Though the Navi tribe preferred getting around Pandora by banshee, Avatar’s designers used radio-controlled drone helicopters to photograph the eerie peaks of Zhiangjiajie.

 

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2 Comments

  1. dnguyen says:

    Titanic? You mean, Avatar?

  2. Fabian says:

    Amazing. I am going to go there. What time of year is the best time to visit?

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