The Other First Lady

Lotte Hass was woman of firsts. I like women 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, Lotte managed to acquire herself a role as Hans Hass’ secretary. It was 1949. She was 18.  She wasn’t there for the typing; Lotte had other ambitions. She had grown up following the adventures of the famous underwater explorer Hans Hass and she wanted that life for herself. Who could blame her?!

After Hans hired her, Lotte implored him to let her come along on his underwater 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 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, Indiana Sarah salutes you!

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Photography courtesy Hans Hass Institute.






About Sarah Ward

I’m Sarah Ward, an archaeologist, commercial diver and factual presenter with 15 years experience, both in and out of the water. I’ve investigated sites ranging from the Bronze Age to the modern, across more than 20 countries. I am on a mission to bring archaeology to a broader audience, helping people to connect with the past in a meaningful way.

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(c) Indiana Sarah 2019