Lotte Hass was woman of firsts. Born Lotte Baierl, in Vienna, Austria on 6 November 1928, Lotte was the first lady of diving. As fearless as she was charming, and as ambitious as she was beautiful, in 1949 at the age of 18, Lotte managed to secure herself a role as secretary for the famous underwater explorer Hans Hass.
She wasn’t there for the typing.
Lotte had grown up following Hass’s adventures, and she wanted that life for herself. Who could blame her?!
After Hans hired her, Lotte implored him to let her tag along on his expeditions. An oceanographic vessel, he said, was no fit place for a woman. So, Lotte set about learning to dive. She secretly undertook training in Austria’s chilly waters, mastering both SCUBA and the underwater cameras. Then Hans found out. He not impressed. Lotte proceeded undeterred.
In 1950 and against strong opposition, Lotte’s break came. Hans was planning to film Adventure in the Red Sea and was told in no uncertain terms that he needed a pretty woman to make it work. Hans had no choice but to bring Lotte on board. “From tomorrow on, you are a man” Hans was said to have told her. Lotte was ecstatic! She immediately became the star of his show and later that year, his second wife. From that day she accompanied him on expeditions around the world before devoting herself to motherhood.
The Daily Mail, once described her as “one of the most beautiful women who has ever prowled under the sea with a spear.” Now that’s my kind of compliment! Lotte was one incredible woman. Someone to be admired. As both onscreen talent and underwater photographer, Lotte was also a pioneer. She was the worlds’ first underwater model, one of the first female underwater photographers and only seven years after SCUBA was invented, she was the first women dive a rebreather. Which, I might add, she learned to operate in the water!
An incredible talent, Lotte released Girl on the Ocean Floor, four years before I was born. She co-authored and co-produced numerous books and films, was inducted into the The Woman Divers Hall of Fame in 2000 and received the prestigious Beneath the Sea Leagues Award in 2006.
Sadly, Lotte passed away in four years ago January at the age of 86. Her contributions both in front of and behind the camera, in bringing the underwater world to life, through her books and films screens around the world, cannot be over estimated. Lotte Hass, your adventures underwater have inspired generations of women. For that, we salute you!
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Photography courtesy Hans Hass Institute.