Many, many divers, underwater photographers and filmmakers, when asked about the origin of their passion to go underwater, say that they were inspired by the films and books of Hans Hass. He must be a very remarkable person, interesting to listen to, not to mention, Dr Hass is the greatest celebrity in the diving world today. Is it possible to meet him, to talk?
Dr Hass was born in 1919. I know this fact and am enthusiastic about meeting him. He is the megastar in the diving research constellation. He gave thousands of interviews...
I wondered, would it will be interesting for him to tell his stories once more?
The long awaited date, 17 August, comes. Dr Hass’ office is situated in the center of Vienna. In the room, there are book shelves, a bureau with a green table cloth, a lot of books and albums, pictures and magazines.
Just before our meeting, the Russians had made the first dive expedition at the North Pole. The achievement was still in the limelight of the world’s media. Dr Hass was very interested in the story, and that’s how our meeting began—not questions and answers, but just friendly conversation about current events.
Dr Hass just returned from Monaco with his Italian friends, so he apologised for the Italian words that come first from his tongue here and there. (These Europeans, switching easily from one language to another…) We looked at the old picture books, and Dr Hass told me about his life. All the key points of his bright career are well known, but the details!
Very cordially, he spoke about Lotta Hass, his wife and partner. He spoke about the fear that Cousteau and his companions had taken the idea of the oxygen breathing apparatus.
It was a great pleasure not just to talk, listen and converse with Dr Hass, but also to decode the interview (a very rare case). All the words and sounds were clear, nothing like “eee”, “well”, etc—there was great articulation.
The most frequent phrase in the Hass biography is “the first”—“the first to dive”, “the first to research”, “the first to apply...”
His fame in Europe and America and the whole world is great, but not widespread in Russia. Only one book, of the 25 by Hass, is published in Russia. His films were not shown. This was the case most likely because his pioneering research was made during WWII, and mostly before the 1960s. There were probably some other reasons as well. It’s not fair.
That’s why we are sitting here with Hans Hass, to listen... just dates, just thoughts, just ideas.
Youth. “Let me go…”
I am Viennese, my father was a lawyer, quite famous. My father went hunting, and we had hunting grounds just here, not very far from Vienna. We went there. And I also liked to fish at the Old Danube.
My mother was pretty. I loved my mother! She took me to France, so that I learned French. And when I was 18 and finished with my studies, my first studies, she said: “Now this summer, you go on your own to Paris,” and in German they say it differently, “to cut off your horns”.
I spent five days in Paris, and then I went to Juan-les-Pins again, where we went always, and I fell in love with a very nice French girl… but she then decided that a French man was better (Hass laughed)... he knows better how to behave.
So, one morning, I went out to Cape Antibes and thought about my life.
The Turn. I was sitting at Eden Rock. In the cliffs, I was sitting and thinking about my future… and this nice girl… And suddenly something happened to me that changed my life completely. I saw a man swimming around. He was an American, Guy Gilpatric from The Saturday Evening Post. Here he was, the inventor of this new sport—spear fishing—with a long spear and small goggles, and so, I observed him.
I was very good in sports—diving. So, I joined him. And when I came back, I told many stories about the adventures I had, diving down to fish, and nobody believed me.
Then, I decided to make pictures to show everybody how it really was. So, I found a black smith, and he helped me to make a case, the first one for my photo camera. And already by the next year, I went on a little expedition with several friends of mine, four or six of them. We went to the Dalmatian coast, and we had a nice time. So, I wrote about all that in my first book.