Skip to content

Wonders of the Deep: Williamson Submarine Expedition, Chapter V, Taking Submarine Motion Pictures, the roles undertaken on the expedition by Ernest Williamson, George Williamson, Carl Gregory and Joe Bethel, as underwater filming began.

previous page



This diagram shows the method by which the Williamson submarine pictures were taken

THE Williamson party remained at Nassau through the months of April and May, working daily among the neighbouring islands with the “Jules Verne” and the deep sea tube, and getting good results from the very start. So brilliant was the sun, so crystal clear the water, that, even at depths of eight or ten fathoms, the photographer down in his iron chamber was able to secure marvellous pictures of this strange submarine region, with its vast silences, its waving sea-gardens, scarlet and purple and old gold, and its millions of gorgeous coloured fishes which darted among the forests of live coral.

It must have been like an enchantment to look out from the observation window over the sea floor, to rise to the marine gardens and the forests of living coral, and descend again to the meadows of the ocean. It must have resembled a spirit land, where all things were at peace.

On favourable days they could see distinctly for a hundred and fifty or two hundred feet ahead of them. Beyond that objects seemed to fade away into palest sapphire mist. What a wonderful thing it must have been to look upwards and see the surface waves from below, undulating smoothly with no broken crests. When the sun fell upon the surface its shafts were broken into silver rain that came down to them like fireworks.

Describing the sensation, Ernest Williamson said that he felt as safe down there in the observation chamber as if he had been riding in the luxurious suite of an ocean liner. There was no danger of their five foot observation chamber being broken by the water pressure, because the pressure of the air on the inner side of the glass is, by means of an air pump, kept exactly the same as the water pressure outside the glass. An air gauge and a water gauge near the funnel show at all times what these pressures are.

The submarine work was carried out as follows: George Williamson and Carl Gregory would usually be in the chamber, down, say, at a depth of fifty feet, George watching the objects and Gregory taking the pictures. Ernest Williamson remained upon deck, leaning over the open tube, listening for orders. It is very easy to talk up and down the tube, in fact, it is just like talking up and down a chimney. George would call out: “Stand by", "Forward", " Aft", "Let her swing", "Slack off", “Now hold on", or whatever he wanted done, and Ernest would repeat these orders to Joe Bethel on the “Nautilus", which was towing them. If George said "Raise her" or "Lower her" Ernest would give word to the men at the chain hoists, and they would raise or lower the chamber until George gave the word to stop. Sometimes the party would drift along with the tide, and photograph whatever came within range of the camera.


Ernest Williamson

George Williamson

Joe Bethel

return to the navigation page

next page