Born January 23, 1919 in Vienna, Hans Hass first encountered the underwater world of the Mediterranean Sea in July 1937 during a vacation to the South of France. His significant achievements and advances have made him a pioneer for both scuba divers and the environment of the ocean. His many books and films have influenced many of the underwater filmmakers and photographers of today.
Hans Hass was the first to “discover” the Red Sea’s potential for underwater exploration, but he experienced a great deal more difficulty in getting there then today’s charter-flight traveler. After the Second World War, it took him several days to fly from Vienna to Sudan, changing planes in Rome and Cairo before finally landing in Port Sudan. With great courage and to the horror of his friends, Hass dived on his own. He risked his life using an oxygen rebreather apparatus to photograph and film sharks, manta rays and other creatures for Men among Sharks.
A second trip with his future wife, Lotte Baierl, added a touch of glamour to the expedition. Although much of the resulting footage was accidentally destroyed by a Swiss photographic laboratory (along with the Hasses’ wedding photos), enough survived to make a film called Red Sea Adventure, which won the international prize for best documentary at the Venice Film Festival in 1950.
In January, at DEMA (Dive Equipment Manufacturer’s Association) 1999 Convention held in New Orleans, Dr. Hans Hass was awarded two NOGI Awards, by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences. Dr. Hass’ first was the Award for Distinguished Service and the other for his contributions to Science. Leslie Leaney (Historical Diving Society President) and Julianne Ziefle (Director Special Projects, Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences) received the awards on Dr. Hass’ behalf. Three days later they traveled to Dusseldorf, Germany, to the BOOTShow (World’s Largest Retail Watersports Show) where an ostentatious celebration took place in honor of Hans Hass 80th Birthday. A Wonderful message was delivery by Jean-Michel Cousteau via broadcast media. The two NOGI were presented and Dr. Hass was delighted that the American’s had come to honor his 80th Birthday with two Awards.