Brad Fox—The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths

Cover of the book “The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths” by Brad Fox showing the title, author’s name, and image of a fish Beebe saw, a Chin-tentacled ceratid, photo by George Swanson, 1938 (WCS).

The Bathysphere Book


Brad Fox
Astra House, May 16, 2023 $29.00
ISBN: 9781662601903

Fox reports:

The Bathysphere Book weaves together stories relating to the first deep ocean dives, conducted just south of Bermuda in the 1930s. The expedition produced evidence of dozens of new species, and scientists witnessed the rich bioluminescence of mid-ocean marine life for the first time. Similar to the moon landing, the bathysphere expedition was a major event, front-page news around the world.

Portrait photo of Brad Fox by Lindokuhle Ndlovu

Brad Fox
Photo by Lindokuhle Ndlovu

Over twenty years ago and unintentionally, I came across a few paragraphs from Half Mile Down, lead scientist William Beebe’s popular account of the dives. After first reaching a depth unpenetrated by sunlight, experiencing utter darkness and a peculiar brilliant blue right at its cusp, Beebe described emerging from the bathysphere into the brightness of the afternoon. The yellow of the sun, he wrote, could never again “be as wonderful as blue can be.”

That scene lodged itself in my imagination, but it wasn’t until I was a doctoral student at the City University of New York that my research went further. A classmate—science historian Katherine McLeod—introduced me to the illustrations of Else Bostelmann and other staff artists, and I began to see how rich the material was. Grants from the CUNY Graduate Center were instrumental in funding visits to various archives, and residencies at La Napoule and MacDowell offered time to finish my draft.

I’d never written a nonfiction book proposal before, but other writers were kind enough to share theirs, and I had the good fortune to discover a friend of mine was represented by Akin Akinwumi at Willenfield Agency. Akin helped me polish my proposal and we got several offers very quickly.

My hope was that the publisher would produce a beautiful object without normalizing my somewhat nonlinear and experimental form. Ben Schrank, president of Astra House, shared my vision and was keen to edit the book himself. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

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