The Bathysphere Book. Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths
“Beautifully written and beautifully made, The Bathysphere Book is a piece of poetic nonfiction that strives to conjure up the crushing blackness of the midnight zone. Full color, overflowing with stunning illustrations of the uncanny creatures that live beyond the sun, it raises questions of exploration and wonder, of nature and humanity, and lets readers find answers on their own.” —W. M. Akers, The New York Times Book Review
“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 knows that the descent into the deep meant a sea-change not just in science, but in aesthetics, philosophy, the sense of what it is to be human. All have been changed, become rich and strange, as this rich, strange book shows so beautifully.” —China Miéville, author of The City in the City and Perdido Street Station
“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
“Mesmerizing… Original and often profound, [The Bathysphere Book] is a moving testament to the wonders of exploration.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Imbued with the adventurous spirit of science and exploration . . . [The Bathysphere Book is] an enchanting cabinet of curiosities.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A fascinating and enlightening journey into the deepest of waters.” —Tobias Carroll, InsideHook
“[A] splendid, hypnotic ode to wonder and curiosity.” —Carl Hoffman, The Washington Post
“The Bathysphere Book is a strange, striking, singular recounting . . . It’s a truly creative, passionate, and inspiring blend of science writing, adventure, historical curiosity, art and poetry that will leave you in love with the Earth’s unknowable depths.” —J. Simpson, Spectrum Culture
“A strange and intoxicating book.” —Duncan Madden, Geographical
“Brad Fox has illuminated something true about nature, the world, philosophy and history.” —Bill Rambo, Winnipeg Free Press
For fans of Undrowned, The Brilliant Abyss, and The Book of Eels. For fans of visually rich nature documentaries: My Octopus Teacher, Planet Earth.
A wide-ranging, philosophical, and sensual account of early deep sea exploration and its afterlives, The Bathysphere Book begins with the first-ever voyage to the deep ocean in 1930 and expands to explore the adventures and entanglements of its all-too-human participants at a time when the world still felt entirely new.
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 was attached to a steel cable that plunged 3,000 feet into the sea. There, suspended by the cable, dangled a four-and-a-half-foot steel ball called the bathysphere. Crumpled inside, gazing through three-inch quartz windows at the undersea world, was Hollister’s colleague William Beebe. He called up to her, describing previously unseen creatures, explosions of bioluminescence, and strange effects of light and color.
From this momentous first encounter with the unknown depths, The Bathysphere Book widens its scope to explore a transforming and deeply paradoxical America, as the first great skyscrapers rose above New York City and the Great Plains baked to dust. In prose that is magical, atmospheric, and entirely engrossing, Brad Fox dramatizes new visions of our planetary home, delighting in tales of the colorful characters who surrounded, supported, and participated in the dives—from groundbreaking scientists and gallivanting adventurers to eugenicist billionaires.
The Bathysphere Book is a hypnotic assemblage of brief chapters along with over fifty full-color images, records from the original bathysphere logbooks, and the moving story of surreptitious romance between Beebe and Hollister that anchors their exploration. Brad Fox blurs the line between poetry and research, unearthing and rendering a visionary meeting with the unknown.
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.
- 61 full color images included.
- Brad Fox wrote a piece for Hope Ginsburg’s “Meditation Ocean” exhibition, which is currently on display at Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts.
- Mentioned in Martin MacInnes’s The Guardian list of the “top 10 visionary books about scientists”
- Featured in Publishers Weekly‘s Summer Reads 2023, Financial Times’ “The best books of 2023 so far—picked by FT readers”
- Reviewed by for The Guardian
- Brad Fox was interviewed on BYU Radio’s Constant Wonder live on August 16, 2023
- Nicely reviewed in Spectrum Culture published on August 18, 2023
- Recommended by Molly Young in her New York Times Book Review Read Like the Wind newsletter sent on August 26, 2023
- Recommended by Local Georgia news site Winters Media on August 30, 2023
- Reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press published on September 16, 2023
- Reviewed in Geographical published on September 19, 2023