10 Places Jacqueline Bisset scuba dived on RMS Rhone while filming THE DEEP

Jacqueline Bisset at the seaward side of RMS Rhone's bow section

Discover the real wreck of RMS Rhone, in the British Virgin Islands, which was a filming location for The Deep's fictitious Goliath. The location is also connected to BVI's diving pioneers, Bert and Jackie Kilbride, and to Peter Island Yacht Club (now Peter Island Resort). The 10 exact places on Rhone where The Deep was filmed are revealed below. 

RMS Rhone

(Source Illustrated London News)

RMS Rhone is a real wreck which sank 29 October 1867 after striking Black Rock Point, at Salt Island in the British Virgin Islands, during the San Narciso Hurricane

The exact death toll remains uncertain because an unknown number of passengers from RMS Conway transferred to the "unsinkable" Rhone when both Rhone and Conway began to drag their anchors while moored at Peter Island. 

Conway featured on a 1985 Belize stamp commemorating the 350th anniversary of the British Post Office.

It would be a disservice to skip over the dreadful events of
Rhone's sinking and there are two good books which memorialise the disaster revealing the history of the ship, the lives of her passengers and crew, and the impact on the Salt Island community.

When Lionel J. Lee, Chief Officer of RMS Tyne, sketched the wreckage the following day, Rhone's stern section floated partially above the water on Black Rock Point. The bow had settled relatively upright with the forward mast above water. 

(Source Illustrated London News)

Kent's Twice She Struck provides a vivid description from first-hand accounts of survivors climbing the foremast of the wrecked bow section as they tried to hold on against roaring seas. The scene was illustrated in a George Wilkinson watercolour which captures the moment Josiah Metcalfe, an invalided seaman, and others found sanctuary in Rhone's foremast.

George Wilkinson RMS Rhone on Black Rock 1867

The same mast and crow's nest that Josiah Metcalfe desperately climbed is still at the wreck site on the bow section.

Once a place of desperation now a scuba diver's delight, Rhone's mast and crow's nest at right (Source Scuba Diver Life)

Kent also corrects a myth about Rhone's wreckage being blown up by the British or US navies because it was shipping hazard. Instead, it was hardhat diver Jeremiah Murphy, who arrived in St. Thomas to clear hurricane damaged Charlotte Amalie Harbour, who used explosives while salvaging the Rhone. Murphy's activities blew apart what remained of the Rhone's stern section which obliterated slid off Black Rock Point. The bow section may have rolled onto the seabed during another hurricane in 1924. 

In 1958 Bert Kilbride, the husband of Jacqueline Bisset's stunt double Jackie Kilbride, was possibly the first person to dive the Rhone since it's salvage during the late 1860s (Kent, 2017). 

The Kilbrides, who were friends of The Deep's underwater cinematographer Stan Waterman, ran underwater tours of Rhone and Anegada from their home at Saba Rock. To offset the loss of income to Kilbride's tour business, caused by The Deep having exclusive access to Rhone, producer Peter Guber hired Jackie Kilbride as Bisset's underwater stunt double. She also travelled to Marion Reef in Australia to play Gail Berke during shark scenes. 

"It's the danger that gives the kick" Jackie Kilbride (Image Ken Sakamoto for Honolulu Star Bulletin)

The Deep provided the Kilbrides with what was effectively a global promotion of their Rhone dive site which they capitalised upon by cross-promoting underwater tours alongside production teases by Columbia Pictures (now Sony Pictures) in diving magazines. 

Kilbrides Underwater Tours cross-promoted with The Deep in May 1977 (Source Skin Diver)

Rhone was suggested as a filming location by Stan Waterman because it offered a scale of shipwreck and consistent water clarity that could not be found in Bermuda. Waterman and Peter Benchley had been best friends for many years and it was Waterman who brought Al Giddings onto The Deep production team. A biopic on Waterman's career, Stan Waterman the Man who loves Sharks, from Greg Stirling, includes Peter Benchley and is available on Vimeo.

The Man Who Loves Sharks

In the summer of 1976, when the Rhone's story had almost been forgotten, Peter Island Yacht Club (now called Peter Island Resort) became The Deep's production headquarters while exterior diving scenes were filmed at the Rhone. Cast and crew lived at the Club and one of the sitting rooms was converted to the production office and temporary screening room.

Nick Nolte, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Shaw and director Peter Yates in front of Peter Island's old administration building 1976 (Source unknown Japanese film magazine)

Jacqueline Bisset came to The Deep as a novice diver following introductory lessons by Al Giddings who said, "She went from declaring she'd never put her head underwater, to staying down 40 minutes at a hit."(Daily News, 1976). 

Jacqueline Bisset scuba diving on location in The Deep
Jacqueline Bisset diving while filming (Source possibly David Doubilet of Keith Hamshere for Sony Pictures).

By the end of production Bisset had accumulated many hours, with a few scares, and was aware of Rhone's history. Recalling getting lost in Rhone's hull "I began thinking of all the men who had died on that ship, and became absolutely terrified."(Daily News, 1976)

Jacqueline Bisset on board Moby II above the wreck of RMS Rhone. Black Point Rock, which the Rhone struck, is behind Bisset at right.

Each day the cast and crew commuted the few minutes from Peter Island to Rhone on board dive master Denny Breese's boat Tern. From Tern they transferred to the Moby II a utility boat stationed over the wreck site which was brought especially from Miami. While Peter Island did not feature in the film the Club was careful to associate itself with The Deep just as the Kilbrides had done in diving publications. However, Peter Island shrewdly included a Jacqueline Bisset lookalike, complete with scuba gear, in a series of evocative print advertisements. 

(Source Skin Diver)

(Source Skin Diver)

RMS Rhone appears largely unchanged since The Deep was filmed in 1976 but Hurricane Irma caused part of the bow section to 'shape shift' downwards in 2017. It appears that swim throughs are still possible and the cargo hatch that Jacqueline Bisset blew a kiss from remains intact. The small Salt Island cemetery nearby, where many victims of the Rhone disaster were buried, was reportedly destroyed

(Source BVI Beacon)

Jacqueline Bisset at RMS Rhone's bow section cargo hatch 1976 (Source Sony Pictures)

The 10 exact filming locations on Rhone

Use the dive charts below (click to enlarge) to find 10 key scenes filmed on the wreck of RMS Rhone.

"There's something down there" (Source ArtToMedia (dive chart) and Sony Pictures (inserts). 

1. Jacqueline Bisset blows a kiss to Nick Nolte from the cargo hatch on Rhone's bow section.

2. The aft end of the keel on the seaward side (near where "70FT" is marked on this chart) is where her arm was pulled under the hull, and,

3. Directly above the same site on the keel (near where "40FT" is marked on this chart) is where Bisset struggled to free herself from Nolte's graspBisset says she almost drowned while filming this scene and Nolte also lost his air supply.

(Source ArtToMedia (dive chart) and Sony Pictures (inserts).

4. Nick Nolte plays with an octopus by the boiler at the mid section.

5. He discovers a fork inscribed GOLIATH and the bottle with the medallion by the tiles on the South section.

6. Bisset feeds fish at the gearbox on the stern section.

7. The couple take photos while swimming along the aft mast opposite the gear box on the stern section.

"Our only chance is to go up in the bubbles" (Source ArtToMedia (dive chart) and Sony Pictures (inserts).

8. The couple approach the propellor swim-through beneath Black Rock.

9. Treece, David and Gail go up in the column of bubbles from the hatch lying in the sand on the seaward side of the bow section. 

Bisset and Nolte approach RMS Rhone's propellor, only the second bonze ship's propellors ever made (Source Sony Pictures).

"Our only chance is to go up in the bubbles" (Source Sony Pictures )

The shark frenzy scene echoed a real incident that occurred when Peter Benchley, his wife Wendy, and son Clayton, inadvertently descended into a bull shark feeding area and found themselves surrounded by 13 hungry sharks. As the sharks became agitated the trio purged their regulators to shield themselves with a noisy curtain of air and slowly ascended to the safety of their dive boat. Benchley recalls the harrowing experience in his book Shark Trouble.  

Wendy, Peter, and Clayton Benchley, with Roy Scheider on the set of Jaws 1974 (Source Universal Pictures via Shark Trouble).

10. Rhone's real interior appears briefly when Gail Berke (Jacqueline Bisset), Romer Treece (Robert Shaw), and David Sanders (Nick Nolte), pull air hoses through the cargo hatch in the bow section (see number 1 in this list). 

(Source Sony Pictures)

Gail (stunt double Jackie Kilbride) swims through the Rhone bow section to send ampules topside. 

(Source Sony Pictures)

All other wreck interior scenes were filmed inside the world's Biggest Underwater Set (BUS) in Bermuda.

Tony Master's BUS containing the interior of Goliath and Grifon (Source Skin Diver Magazine)

If you are lucky enough to visit the Turks and Caicos Islands you'll discover that salvage diver Jeremiah Murphy gifted Rhone's bell to St. George Anglican Church, Cockburn Harbour TKCA 1ZZ, Turks & Caicos Islands where it still rings today. Murphy and members of his family are buried in the churchyard outside.

RMS Rhone's bell still rings at St. George Anglican Church in Caicos (Source Turks and Caicos National Museum).

Rhone's remains have survived between three centuries unlike the ship's owner Royal Mail Steam Packet Company which is no more.  In 1965, after changing ownership a number of times in the twentieth century, the company was absorbed into Furness, Withy & Co who once operated the Furness Bermuda Line. A discrete acknowledgement of Furness' dual connection to both Rhone and Bermuda appears in The Deep's Hamilton Library scene. When Bermuda's Maritime Museum, where The Deep's Hamilton Library scene took place, opened in 1974, one exhibit was a house flag of Furness Withy & Co which hung high above the doorway at the east entrance of the Queen's Exhibition Hall.

Furness flag above the entrance to Queen's Exhibition Hall c1974 (Source Dr. Edward Harris)

House flag of house flag of Furness Withy & Co (Source Royal Museums Greenwich)

In 1976, as Nick Nolte took his seat opposite Jacqueline Bisset, the Furness flag could still be seen high above the doorway at the south east end of the building.

The Furness, Withy & Co house flag above the east entrance of Queen's Exhibition Hall in 1976 (Source Sony Pictures)

Were you there when The Deep was being filmed? Share your story of the The Deep filming locations in the comments below.



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