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The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths

May 18, 2023 @ 7:00 pm


May 18, 2023
7:00 pm
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Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States


Harvard Book Store
(617) 661-1515


The Bathysphere Book:
Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths 

in conversation with SADIA QURAESHI SHEPARD

The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths

Harvard Book Store welcomes BRAD FOX—author of the novel To Remain Nameless—for a discussion of his new book The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths. He will be joined in conversation by SADIA QURAESHI SHEPARD—assistant professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About The Bathysphere Book

In the summer of 1930, aboard a ship floating near the Atlantic island of Nonsuch, marine biologist Gloria Hollister sat on a crate, writing furiously in a notebook with a telephone receiver pressed to her ear. The phone line attached to a steel cable that unrolled off the side of the vessel and plunged into the sea, sinking 3000 feet. There, suspended by the cable, dangled a four-and-a-half-foot steel ball called the bathysphere. Crumpled up inside, gazing through three-inch quartz windows at the undersea world, sat Hollister’s colleague William Beebe. He called up to her excitedly, describing bizarre creatures, explosions of bioluminescence, and strange effects of light and color. Hollister, listening amid rocking waves, tried to get down everything she heard.

The story of The Bathysphere Book springs from the original expedition logbooks—the first eyewitness account of the deep ocean. They possess a strange poetry, scientific vocabulary shot through with the thrill of the new, and an erotic charge due to the illicit affair Hollister and Beebe were carrying on. The expedition launched from an expansive, transforming America, as streetlights came on in New York City and the Great Plains baked to dust. Backers ranged from eugenicist conservatives to billionaire socialists, while the expedition staff was a ragtag team of eccentrics who socialized with iconic figures of the period, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Gypsy Rose Lee. The bathysphere was the subject of much media attention and made the team famous. Prefiguring NASA’s blue marble photograph, the first images of the deep ocean offered a new sense of the planetary. The book will include archival images as well as a few reproductions of illustrations by expedition artists.

The Bathysphere Book delights in the human drama that surrounds this groundbreaking move into the deep ocean, a story of one visionary encounter with the unknown.

Praise for The Bathysphere Book

The Bathysphere Book is wonderful, in the literal sense: filled with wonder. Brad Fox illuminates the extraordinary discoveries of the ocean depths, to be sure, but also of the scientists and artists who first explored them, less than a century ago. To read this glorious and beautifully illustrated account—relayed with what its protagonist William Beebe called ‘the oblique glance’, the wisdom that everything is connected—is to feel again a child’s awed delight at human ingenuity, and at our planet.” —Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children and A Dream Life

“What is this sublime, remarkable book? It’s a black unreadable eye sliding past a submarine window, it’s a color on an alien spectrum, it’s a fish made of filaments and lit by its own light. I don’t know what it is, I only know that it’s luminous.” —Shelley Jackson, author of The Melancholy of Anatomy and Riddance

“Brad Fox has created a brilliant work of literary art—at once almanac and seance, wonder-cabinet and hallucinogen. The vigor, pluck, and compression of his language turn a linear chronicle into a time-bending, gem-laden constellation, with surprising flashes of wit, gossip, and melodrama.” —Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Ultramarine and The Cheerful Scapegoat