Until Water Is No Longer Wet

‘The Bathysphere Book’ by Brad Fox

Tucker Lieberman
7 min readMay 8

Fish, detail from cover of The Bathysphere Book, with colors reversed and a blue overlay

Thales said everything was made of water. His student, Anaximander, said everything was made of apeiron, and no one knows what apeiron is. Then his student, Anaximenes, gazed into the water and saw swirls of light.

Bioluminescent creatures have always been observed, though for a long time, humans had no explanation for why the sea lights up.

This is the illumination of The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths by Brad Fox.

Sometimes We Come at a Book Sideways

One character I noticed in this history was Gaylord Wilshire (1861–1927), the son of a Cincinnati banker who invested in railroads and gas. He dropped out of Harvard after one year, moved to San Francisco, declared himself a socialist, and said the railroads and telegraph should be nationalized.

I noticed him because I once took an interest in a historical figure, born 40 years later, who was also the son of a railroad man and who dropped out of Harvard after one year, having no interest in railroads.

Maybe it is a personality type. If we don’t look at it directly, but look at it sideways —

Fox’s book also makes me think of David Starr Jordan (1851–1931), whose story is told in Lulu Miller’s book, Why Fish Don’t Exist.

If you are interested in facts of many sorts at which you like to come in sideways, or if you like to curl yourself up in a steel ball and wait for ideas to come to you, this is the sort of oceanic book for you.

William Beebe in the Bathysphere

William Beebe (1877–1962) began his career as an ornithologist, shooting down birds and cataloging them. In the early 1900s, it occurred to him that counting distinct birds was not the point. The point was that everything was connected. You needed to look with “the oblique glance,” since, as Fox paraphrases, “insights did not spring from what you looked straight at, but what you half-sensed at the periphery.” That’s how you “feel around at the edges of things” and get to “the immaterial meaning.”

Tucker Lieberman