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Williamson Brothers

J. Ernest Williamson
Liverpool, England, UK
Died: 7/15/1966

George Williamson
Liverpool, England, UK
Died: 5/23/1956

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The Williamson Brothers developed the Williamson Photosphere that enabled them to produce the first underwater motion pictures
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John Ernest and George Williamson


The inductees for this new category of Early Pioneers are George and J. Ernest Williamson.  In 1912, they modified an invention of their father's into an underwater viewing sphere for underwater film production.

Artificially illuminated photographs of the depths of Chesapeake Bay taken in 1913 produced such captivating results that Williamson was inspired to attempt motion pictures. With this new equipment, Williamson and his brother George set out for The Bahamas, where the sun­light can penetrate 150 feet deep in clear water, greatly enhancing photographic possibilities. In March 1914, near Nassau, Williamson shot the first-ever underwater motion pictures.

Consisting of two distinct parts, it was known as the Williamson Submarine Tube coupled with the Photosphere, which was the film platform at the end of it. In 1915, they created a movie version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on location in the Bahamas. After opening in 1916, it broke box office records across America, likely because it was the world's first underwater movie and included several special effects.

In 1932, a compilation called 'With Williamson Beneath the Sea' was released, revealing the scientific uses of the Photosphere, and featuring his undersea family. This film has been restored by the Library of Congress. The Williamson's went on to make more underwater movies and one brother was later involved in recovering coral to build a reef inside a Chicago Museum.

Later, J.E. Williamson converted it into an underwater post office where collectible letters were sold, then stamped and franked as posted from Sea Floor, Bahamas.

George and John Ernest Williamson were pioneers of undersea motion picture photography