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Customs House Museum & Cultural Center presents Beyond the Abyss. Phil Crouch & the Bathysphere Adventure

Customs House Museum & Cultural Center in Clarksville, Tennessee presents Beyond the Abyss. Phil Crouch & the Bathysphere Adventure, on view through February 17, 2013.

Philbrick Crouch was nineteen when he became a member of the 1930 Oceanographic research team with well-known explorer Dr. William Beebe for the New York Zoological Society to Bermuda. The Customs House Museum will be revisiting his experience with the exhibit Beyond the Abyss: Phil Crouch & the Bathysphere Adventure on November 15th. The show will include photos of this expedition taken by Mr. Crouch, along with his diary sketches and a 90% actual size model of the Bathysphere.

The original Bathysphere was designed by Otis Barton. The Watson Stillman Hydraulic Machinery Company in Roselle, New Jersey produced the Bathysphere. Made of cast iron, it could hold two people. Electricity for light and a telephone line were wrapped inside a rubber hose, which entered through a small hole at the top of the Bathysphere.

The 1930 expedition was designed to continue work that started at Nonsuch Island in 1929, when Beebe’s team used nets to catch fish to study and diving helmets and gear to test the water in preparation for the Bathysphere. Phil’s role was to take care of the electrical system and to keep the generator running. On June 6th, 1930, Beebe and Barton descended 803 feet, 134 fathoms, 245 meters. It was the first time a scientific group had explored the ocean depths in a vertical line examining the life that exists at various depths. Before the 1930 record the deepest living man had attained was 525 feet.

Mr. Crouch, who studied at the Beaux Arts and the Arts Student League in New York, made the models for five dioramas of deep-sea fish that were part of the New York Zoological Society’s exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair. He took a month of vacation from his position as an assistant at Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney’s studio in New York to be a part of this Bermuda trip.

On August 15th, 1934, Beebe and Barton set a new world record with a depth of 3,028 feet. The record held until 1949. In 1997, noted oceanographer, Hojn McCosker of the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, called Beebe the “Cousteau“of his generation. The Bathysphere has recently been exhibited at he New York Aquarium. Beyond the Abyss will be on exhibit through February 17th, 2013. –

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