Where was the lighthouse from THE DEEP filmed?

Treece's lighthouse exterior at Coney Island, Bermuda.

Three different Bermuda locations were combined to create Romer Treece's (Robert Shaw) Saint David's Lighthouse. These were at Coney Island, Bermuda, the Royal Naval Dockyard, and, the real Saint David's lighthouse on Saint David's Island.

To avoid confusion there is a real Saint David's Lighthouse at Saint David's Island in Bermuda, which is where Peter Benchley's novel THE DEEP is set. However, the majority of the movie's exterior Saint David's scenes were filmed instead at Coney Island, Bermuda. We'll look at all three locations in detail below.

Coney Island

An exterior facade, which explodes at the end of the film, once existed at Coney Island, Bermuda. The location does not have a specific postal address but the set lay on top of Coney Island hill approximately 100 metres from the Department of Environmental Protection, Marine Resources cottage at 3 Coney Island Road, Saint George, Bermuda, CR 04. The Marine Resources cottage was the filming location of 'Kevin's lunch' where Kevin and Ronald had their outboard motor fight.

Treece's Lighthouse set on Coney Island hill seen from the Bermuda Causeway (Source Sony Pictures)

The set was built at Coney Island instead of Saint David's for three reasons. First, the plot required the lighthouse to be blown up which couldn't happen to the real Saint David's Lighthouse which is still a fully active navigation aid. Secondly, in Peter Benchley's novel "The lighthouse sat on a flat promontory, so high above the sea that the light itself needed to be only fifty or sixty feet above the ground"; whereas the real Saint David's Lighthouse is back from the ocean and surrounded by other buildings as can be seen in Google StreetView below. 

Thirdly, the real Saint David's Lighthouse was too tall for Panavision's anamorphic format. 

(Source Sony Pictures)

The character of Romer Treece was based upon the life of Bermuda explorer Teddy Tucker who worked as a consultant on the film supplying a variety of services during production. The lighthouse exterior was dressed with real artefacts including grindstones that Tucker raised from the wreck of the Caeser.

Grindstones from the wreck of the Caeser some raised by Tucker in 1961 (Source Sony Pictures)

Tucker was filmed salvaging grindstones and other items from the Caeser in 1961.

Teddy Tucker uses an air bag to lift grindstones from the Caeser (Source Teddy Tucker Adventure is my Life)

Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset reached "Saint David's Island" (which was really Coney Island) by crossing the historic Coney Island Bridge. A bridge has existed here for approximately 400 years and was one of the first three bridges to be built in Bermuda.

Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte cross historic Coney Island Bridge (Source Sony Pictures)

A series of large concrete pylons run alongside the bridge and continue across the harbour to the right of Robert Shaw below.

(Source Sony Pictures)

The pylons are the remains of the Bermuda Railway which is now the Bermuda Railway Trail. In some scenes there was a fleeting glimpse of a small hut next to the railway pylon at the tip (North Point) of Coney Island.

The Coney Island hut in shot (Source Sony Pictures).

The tiny shelter is still there and you can step right up to it:

When Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte first climbed the lighthouse steps the audience was treated to a rich view of distant Castle Harbour, the Bermuda Causeway and Bermuda Airport (Kindley Field) as it appeared in 1976. 

Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte climb the steps of Treece's Lighthouse (Source Sony Pictures).

The same view can still be enjoyed.

By 1973, when the following aerial picture was taken, Coney Island resembled what producer Peter Guber described as "a barren little handful of sand and rock".

(Source Bermuda Government via Douglas De Couto)

Reforestation has covered most of the dirt motocross tracks that were visible when THE DEEP was filmed.

 (Source Google Earth)

Toward the end of the film Robert Shaw walked down a dirt track from the lighthouse toward the shoreline. He paused, then stepped onto the small beach heading to nearby "Kevin's lunch" (Marine Resources Cottage).

"Adam, I think I'll take a breath of air" Robert Shaw as Romer Treece walks down Coney Island Hill in 1976 (Source Sony Pictures).

The 1973 aerial photo makes it possible to recognise exactly where Robert Shaw was walking

Robert Shaw's walking route
(Source Bermuda Government via Douglas De Couto)

Royal Naval Dockyard Sail Loft

The fully furnished interior studio at Royal Naval Dockyard was built inside what director of photography Christopher Challis called "an old sail loft" and producer Peter Guber called "Sound Stage One". The sound stages were directly behind what is now the Clocktower Mall which is where THE DEEP's production offices and a small screening room were. "Sound Stage Two" next door housed the interior of David and Gail's bungalow at the Orange Grove Resort. There is a Sail Loft building at what is now North Basin Building #7 (Sail Loft) Sail Loft Lane, Royal Naval Dockyard Sandy’s Bermuda MA01, and another building opposite, also called a sail loft, which is Building #9.

Treece's lighthouse interior set - north facing
(Source Sony Pictures)

The set was designed by Tony Masters (of 2001: A Space Odyssey renown), construction supervised by Dick Frift, and decorated by Vernon Dixon. When the Art Directors Guild inducted Tony Masters into their Hall of Fame his work was described as "... obsessed with detail and accuracy. Every single element of the production design, right down to the seemingly most insignificant, were to be designed with technological and scientific accuracy in mind." While the perfection seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey was a vision of the future THE DEEP lighthouse interior was a perfectly layered view of the past. 

The DIY workshop style of Treece's home is rooted in the home laboratory tradition of Bermuda's early maritime explorers. Bermudian explorer Teddy Tucker, who inspired the character of Romer Treece (Robert Shaw), began much of his artefact restoration in the family dining room. 

Wendy, Edna and Teddy Tucker in their home dining room which doubled as a workshop (Source Life)

The set recreated the dining room style workplace and infused the story's shipwreck plot with books and art linked to Spain's maritime history.

Versions of real artefacts Tucker discovered on Bermuda wrecks are behind Nick Nolte including a short sword recovered by Tucker in the 1960s.

Teddy Tucker's real artefacts behind Nick Nolte
(Source Sony Pictures) and (Source Periscope Film)

The painting to the right of Jacqueline Bisset, at the top of the stairs, is English Ships and the Spanish Armada, August 1588 a real painting kept at the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, UK. 

(Source Sony Pictures)

English Ships and the Spanish Armada, August 1588
English Ships and the Spanish Armada, August 1588, artist unknown, English School 16th century (Source National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

A copy of the same painting hangs in the David P Gutteridge Gallery at the Queen's Exhibition Hall which was the location of the 'Hamilton Library' scene. 

English Ships and the Spanish Armada, August 1588 at the Queen's Exhibition Hall (Source Bermuda Culture)

Seville monopolised Spanish trade with the New World for hundreds of years and much of the gold that crossed the Atlantic was smelted at the Royal Mint of Seville (Casa de la Moneda). On the wall above Bisset, where she sits on the stairs, is the engraving View of Seville from the Southwest Side (also called Seville in the 16th century). 

(Source Sony Pictures)

The original source is a 19th century book Sevilla. Historia crítica de las riadas o grandes avenidas del Guadalquivir en Sevilla, Tomo. I or in english Critical history of the floods or great avenues of the Guadalquivir in Seville: from its reconquest to the present day Vol. 1 by  Francisco de Borja Palomo. 

View of Seville from the Southwest side
The engraver who is not credited was possibly Bartolomé Tovar.

In 1519, shortly before Hernan Cortes marched on Montezuma at Tenochtitlan, he declared himself Governor of Veracruz and sent a ship to the King of Spain with letters, gold, native artefacts and precious gems. By August the following year German Artist Albrecht Dürer was visiting the Brussels Town Hall when ...

"I saw the things which have been brought to the King from the new land of gold, a sun all of gold a whole fathom broad, and a moon all of silver of the same size, also two rooms full of armour of the people there, and all manner of wondrous weapons of theirs, harness and darts, very strange clothing, beds, and all kinds of wonderful objects of human use, much better worth seeing than prodigies. These things were all so precious that they are valued at 100,000 florins. All the days of my life I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things, for I saw amongst them wonderful works of art, and I marvelled at the subtle Ingenia of men in foreign lands. Indeed I cannot express all that I thought there." (Conway, 1958)

Dürer became connected to Bermuda's maritime mythology when Smithsonian curator Mendel Peterson referenced a Dürer engraving in his book The Funnel of Gold. The same book included Peterson's first hand account of working in Bermuda with Teddy Tucker, the Canton brothers (Tucker's brothers-in-law) and photographer Peter Stackpole, all of whom are linked to the birth of maritime archaeology in Bermuda ...

"... the Tucker-Canton find remains the richest historically of any discovery in the Western Hemisphere. The emerald cross is without equal for beauty and historical and intrinsic value, being the most valuable single object known to have come from the sea in modern times."(Peterson, 1975)

Tucker's lighthouse acknowledges this connection by discretely referencing Albrecht Dürer throughout the set. Beneath Treece's side table is the book DURER: The complete engravings, etchings and woodcuts Hardcover by Karl Adolf Knappe. 

A 'plot stack' hidden beneath Treece's table (Source Sony Pictures)

On the bottom of the stack is Great Prints and Printmakers by Herman J Wechsler. This book contains Dürer's The Sea Monster (Das Meerwunder) and Adam and Eve both of which could be seen as analogous to David and Gail, and Bermuda. 

Albrecht Dürer's Sea Monster and Adam and Eve

Treece's collection also includes a copy of The Star Atlas by maritime writer S.S Rabl (Samuel Suplee Rabl) and a Spanish language edition of Björn Landström's beautifully illustrated The Ship (El Buque). El Buque contains a woodcut of a 15th century carrack almost identical to the distant vessel in Dürer's Sea Monster and THE DEEP's Grifon.

Detail of carrack from Dürer's The Sea Monster and the Breydenbach Pilgrimage carrack of 1486 (red) from Landstöm's El Buque (Landström, 1961).

In a later scene Gail dozes with El Buque; her hand resting on the magnificent Portuguese carrack Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai.

(Source Sony Pictures)

Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai (Landström, 1961)

As Gail studies a book of paintings she is distracted when Romer Treece (Robert Shaw) reads out a list of jewels. Treece tells David "you know something, this doesn't even look like a proper manifest to me" and Gail suddenly connects the jewels with the painting in front of her. 

"Gentlemen, I give you E.F" (Source Sony Pictures)

Jacqueline Bisset turned the pages of A Basic Guide to the Prado by Rogelio J. Buendia. Jean Ranc's painting of Elizabeth (Isabella) Farnese is real, and hangs at the Museo Del Prado in Madrid.

"The Duchess of Parma was her title, but Elizabeth Farnese was her real name" (Source Museo del Prado)

The text beneath Bisset's hand refers to Jean-Antoine Watteau's Marriage Contract and Country Dance, also at the Prado, but the painting has been replaced with the image of Farnese which does not appear in the real book.

Peter Benchley credited the work of marine archaeologist Robert Marx as a particular help while writing THE DEEP. Marx's The Quest for the Queen's Jewels reveals that Grifon really was a French ship that received permission to travel with the 1715 fleet. Captain Antonio Dairé's vessel was the only survivor of the hurricane which killed over a thousand people including Captain-General Don Antonio Juan Esteban de Ubilla whose Capitana carried Elizabeth Farnese's treasure. Yet the forty chests of jewellery and gold crafted for the new Queen of Spain have never been found.

During the Farnese scene Bisset's costume colour changed to red which, according to the psychology of colour in film, signals excitement and power. It is Gail, who dressed in red, discovers pearls inside the golden pine cone, finds the painting of the lady in the medallion, and, while wearing a red striped diving suit, finds a ruby encrusted version of the Tucker Cross. The costume suggests analogy to Farnese herself; the two women wear red, each had their respective suitors and both seek the Queen's jewels.

One of Elizabeth Farnese's jewels, the Farnese Blue Diamond, remained in the family for centuries and sold for US$6.7 million in 2018.

The real Saint David's Lighthouse, Saint David's Island

While the fictitious Saint David’s Lighthouse exterior was at Coney Island, and the interior at the Sail Loft soundstage, two brief scenes were filmed in the lantern of the real Saint David's Lighthouse. These were when Kevin (Robert Tessier), Treece and David store the ampules with explosives, and later in the film when Coffin (Eli Wallach) pulls down on the handle to open the lantern door.

"But if I hide the things somewhere else they wouldn't know where to look would they?" (Source Sony Pictures)

 (Source Sony Pictures)

Saint David's is one of Bermuda's two lighthouses the other being Gibb's Hill which comes into view during the movie's opening. The Southampton Princess Hotel (now the Fairmont Southampton), to the right of shot, was where cast and crew stayed during filming.

Gibb's Hill Lighthouse and the Fairmont Princess Hotel
Gibb's Hill Lighthouse, centre right, and the Southampton Princess Hotel (now the Fairmont Southampton), far right (Source Sony Pictures).

In Peter Benchley's novel the story begins with the wind roaring down on Goliath as the bosun's mate realises that the ship is off course.

"That ain't Saint David's light!" he screamed.
"It is that!" the captain called back.
"I tell you, that ain't Saint David's! That's bloody Gibb's Hill!"
"It's Gibb's Hill! Look dead ahead!

This part of the story was inspired by the real wreck of the Madiana which crashed onto a Bermuda reef in 1903 after her captain mistook the light of North Rock for Gibb's Hill. The scene was filmed but only appeared in the extended TV version of THE DEEP and as an extra feature in some Blu-ray releases.

Gibb's Hill Lighthouse from the bridge of Goliath
"That ain't Saint David's light!" he screamed (Source Sony Pictures).

In the distance behind Nick Nolte is Cooper's Island which once played a vital role in tracking NASA space missions including the Apollo moon landing.

NASA tracking station behind Nick Nolte at Cooper's Island (Source Sony Pictures).

The distant white object (circled) was a tracking station that ceased operating in the 1990s.

NASA tracking station on Cooper's Island, Bermuda
Former NASA tracking station on Cooper's Island, Bermuda (Source SatNews).

Over the decades the NASA activities were wound down and Cooper's Island became a nature reserve. Facilities were dismantled but the base of the tower that once supported the tracking station's large dish antenna was turned into a wildlife observation tower.

(Source Bermuda Attractions)

Standing on top of the tower it's possible to look back across the bay and see Saint David's Lighthouse in the distance.

Saint David's Lighthouse is only open to the public at certain months of the year (generally November thru March). You can enjoy a glimpse of the turret interior where filming took place with the StreetView image below.

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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