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Wonders of the Deep, the story of the Williamson expedition, preparing for the expedition, from tests on the barge Ada to canvassing for financial support at the 1912 International Motion Picture Exposition.

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The Birth Of An Idea (continued)

With as little delay as possible, the Williamson tube was rigged up and lowered from the barge “Ada" to a depth of about thirty feet, but the waters in Norfolk Harbour were so dark that it was altogether impossible, in ordinary daylight, to see through them for more than a distance of a few feet. This presented the first problem that the pioneers had to solve. Undaunted, however, by this initial set-back, the young men decided to employ artificial light, and after some considerable difficulty, they succeeded in arranging a large battery of tungsten electric lamps in such a way that they would continue to shine after they had been lowered into the sea.

Haying accomplished this, Ernest Williamson climbed down through the tube into the observation chamber and took up his position, with a camera ready, behind the heavy glass window. A baited line was lowered, the electric lights were turned on, and in a moment the photographer was busily engaged in snapping photographs of fish that swarmed in thousands about the apparatus.

The idea of adapting the invention to the purpose of taking motion pictures below the ocean had not yet occurred to them, but a number of exceptionally interesting submarine snapshots were obtained, and the success that had attended their first efforts convinced them of the great possibilities of taking pictures in deep water, many fathoms below the surface of the sea - something that had never been done before.

With an exposure of one-fiftieth of a second or less, they found it possible to take perfectly distinct pictures of various small fish, spot fish, croakers, and other species; and when George Williamson dived down to a depth of thirty feet and posed before the observation window, holding in his hands a copy of a magazine, the underwater picture was almost as good as if it had been taken in the ordinary way in the daylight.

This achievement was accomplished in the summer of 1912, and in the autumn of the same year the Williamson brothers exhibited their submarine photographs in New York City at the first International Motion Pictures Exposition, where, as we should naturally expect, they caused no little sensation, and attracted the attention and aroused the interest of scientists from all parts of the world. The possibilities of further development occurred to several prominent business men, and before long the two brothers found that they could secure financial support from a group of solid business men, mostly Southerners, who organised a company to develop a submarine moving picture enterprise, and made arrangements for the despatch of an expedition to some suitable spot, afterwards to be selected, where they were confident that the Williamsons would succeed in attaining their object. The results subsequently achieved showed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the confidence placed by this small group of businessmen in the two enthusiastic inventors was not misplaced, for the expedition turned out to be an unbounded success from every standpoint.


Norfolk Harbour



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