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Book Profile, Revue & Price Guide: Wonders of the Deep by Victor E. Allemandy

Wonders of the Deep - The Story of the Williamson Brothers Submarine Expedition was published in 1915. This rare first edition book is of historical and scientific importance. Here is a revue and valuation.
Wonders of the Deep: Recognised by scholars and historians as a book of scientific and historical importance

Wonders of the Deep - The Story of the Williamson Submarine Expedition by Victor E. Allemandy is a natural history book considered by scholars and historians to be of significant historical and scientific importance. The first edition was published in London by Jarrold and Sons in 1915. Although these were undated, the photographed copy above is a first edition.

Wonders of the deep is about the 1914 Williamson brothers submarine exploration and filming from a "photosphere" beneath the surface of the ocean near Nassau (Bahamas). The photosphere was a viewing pod attached to a long tube, like a concertina or accordion. This stretching tube was previously used for salvage work, below the water level ship repairs and harvesting from the sea bed. It had been invented and patented some years earlier by the brothers father Charles, a ship's captain, and was known as the Williamson Submarine Tube.

The brothers were John Ernest Williamson (1881-1966) and George Maurice Williamson (1885-1956). They became pioneers of undersea photography and filming. John adapted his father's tube and initially used it for taking images under the sea off Hampton Roads, Virginia. He'd added his windowed viewing chamber (photosphere) to the tube, and a bright mercury vapour light was mounted on the ship, above the water level, thus illuminating the seabed in front of the chamber. So successful were the brothers efforts that they were encouraged to use their equipment for motion pictures.

  • 1872-1876 The science of oceanography is relatively modern. It came about after the H.M.S. Challenger expedition which collected huge quantities of artefacts, statistics and other data from below the surface of the sea
  • 1912 Journalist John Ernest Williamson realised that the stretching tube developed by his father Charles, could be adapted for underwater photography. It was effective to a depth of about 250 feet
  • 1912 John Williamson tested the adapted tube with an attached photosphere in Norfolk Harbour, Virginia
  • In preparing for their expedition the brothers needed to consider lighting. Although some lighting could be provided from the ship, they chose to explore in the waters off the Bahamas because natural light from the sun reached about 150 feet below the ocean surface and seemed to provide ideal conditions for filming
  • A special barge was built to mount and carry the tube and photosphere. This barge was known as the Jules Verne
  • 1914 The Williamson brothers set sail from New York Harbour in March, on their submarine expedition to Nassau
  • 1914 After the expedition the Williamson brothers created their first documentary film, using much of the expedition footage. Thirty Leagues Under the Sea was an incredible achievement and so began a long association of the brothers with the film industry
  • 1915 Wonders of the Deep was published, featuring the earliest deep sea photographic stills

In many ways this book underlines the importance of printed matter: The documentary Thirty Leagues Under the Sea and this book, Wonders of the Deep, were both by-products of the Williamson submarine expedition. However, there are no known surviving copies of the film.

In his introduction, Victor E. Allemandy states:

  • For the first time in the history of mankind some of the secrets of the ocean have been revealed, and the story of the methods by which this has been done forms the subject-matter of this book.
The frontispiece shows small fish taking bait from a line over the ocean bed

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About the Author: Victor E, Allemandy

Little is known about the author, Victor E. Allemandy. He also wrote:

  • The Normal Reign of George III
  • The Growth of the British Dominions

These books pre-dated Wonders of the Deep, but I have been unable to find any publishing information. There are also a number of books by Victor H. Allemandy, who may be the same person.

Other natural history books published by Jarrold & Sons and available at the time (1915):

  • By the Deep Sea: The Natural History of the Sea Shore by Edward Step
  • The Every Day Book of Natural History revised by Edward Step
  • Wild Nature Wooed and Won by Oliver G. Pike and Magdalen F.P. Tuck
  • The Scout's Book of Birds by Oliver G. Pike
  • With Nature Through the Year by Theo Carreras
  • A Year In the Woodlands by Theo Carreras
  • Bird Biographies by Oliver G. Pike
  • Through Birdland Byways With Pen and Camera by Oliver G. Pike
  • Farther Afield In Birdland by Oliver G. Pike
  • Insect Biographies With Pen and Camera by J.J. Ward
  • Wild Animals and the Camera by W.P. Dando
  • More Wild Animals and the Camera
A native diver swimming under the powerful mercury vapour lamps and a view of the wonderful flora on the bed of the West Indian Seas

Contents: Wonders of the Deep - The Story of the Williamson Submarine Expedition

  • Introduction
  • The Birth of an Idea
  • In the Bahamas
  • At Nassau
  • Getting Ready
  • Taking Submarine Motion Pictures
  • Denizens of the Deep
  • Some Oddities of Fish Life
  • Sponge Fishing
  • The Coral Architect
  • Deep-Sea Diving
  • A Thrilling Fight With a Blue Shark

Underwater Images, Taken from the Photosphere

  • Small fish taking bait from a line over the ocean bed (frontispiece)
  • A deep-sea grotto
  • Deep-sea flora
  • Portion of the foundation of the wall of the dock at Nassau
  • A glimpse of the flora and fauna of the West Indian seas
  • Native boy diving for coins
  • Native boy picking coins from the ocean bed
  • A view of the different forms of life on the bed of the ocean
  • Midnight photography, native diver swimming under the powerful mercury vapour lamps
  • A view of the wonderful flora on the bed of the West Indian seas
  • A native tying an anchor on the bed of the ocean
  • Exploring a wreck lying on the bed of the ocean
  • A native attacking a blue shark
Exploring a wreck lying on the bed of the ocean

Book Outline: Wonders of the Deep

  • Title: Wonders of the Deep - The Story of the Williamson Submarine Expedition
  • Author: Victor E. Allemandy
  • Published by Jarrold and Sons: undated 1st edition, 1915
  • Format: Hardcover with pasted illustration to the front cover
  • Pages: 94, including a list of Jarrold's series of nature books, text, captions and black and white photos with additional toned plates showing photosphere produced images
  • Size Approx: 189x251mm
  • Approx weight: 415g

Estimated Book Value: Wonders of the Deep - The Story of the Williamson Submarine Expedition

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Wonders of the Deep - The Story of the Williamson Submarine Expedition, estimated value of the pictured copy, a first edition, which is in good condition, £350

Estimated value of the same book in fine condition, £1,400