Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hans Hass, biologist and photographer

On the cover of “The Journal of Diving History” for the Summer 2013 issue is a portrait of Hans Hass, an Austrian zoologist and visionary scuba diver, who died last June.

Collections of Hass’s photographs were published as art books, showcasing the work he had accomplished as an underwater photographer. He made still and motion pictures, and used a Zeiss 16mm Movicon camera to make documentary films. His main contributions to the biology of marine life in the Red and Caribbean Seas were achieved in part with camera equipment and waterproof housing specially designed by Hass, later called the Rolleimarin system.

For about a decade there were underwater film festivals in the United States, with the first in Hollywood from 1957-1962 and in other cities after that. Dr. Hass received recognition in 1959, two years after Jacques Cousteau; he later received an award from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences.

Interestingly, his work did not stop with underwater photography but continued in the field of biology. In his model, all life was interconnected and on this philosophy he formulated “Energon Theory” which covered the evolution of inanimate objects as well as humans.

Professor Hass wrote more than 30 books on his dive findings, featuring his studies of marine mammals; he made documentary films, some becoming internationally acknowledged. One of his films was shown in 1952 to American audiences. “Under the Red Sea” captured the adventures of diving and was meant to be documentary in nature. In Great Britain his documentaries Diving to Adventure became a television series. His aim was to bring the scientific point of view forward to educate the public, introducing underwater biology.

To read the full article in The Journal of Diving History, "Remembering Hans Hass, the Pioneer of Pioneers" by Leslie Leaney, contact the Historical Diving Society.

For reference questions, please contact the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library.

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