Hans Hass


Hans und Lotte Hass

May we succeed in delving ever deeper
into the mysteries of the ocean depths
and its beauty through photography and film
accessible to the public through photography and film.“

Hans Hass

Hans Hass was one of Europe’s most remarkable contemporary explorers – an outstanding pioneer on many levels. 

Hans Hass is known to many as the “King of Sharks“, as one of the first adventurers to venture into the unknown depths of the sea. However, anyone who takes a closer look at him and his work will realize that this was just one facet of his life, which was aptly titled “A lifetime on expedition“ in his biography. Throughout his life, and even at the age of 94, he was constantly penetrating new, unknown “worlds“ and crossing new boundaries. 

As a freshly qualified high school graduate, Hass came into contact with underwater hunting by chance on the coast of southern France in 1937 and became enthusiastic about it. He went hunting for fish with a long, spear-like harpoon and small swimming goggles. However, he was not only gripped by the desire to hunt and the adventure, he also quickly became interested in the unknown world under water.

Back from his first underwater hunts, he wanted to inspire those around him with his enthusiasm for the fascinating underwater world. Soon he realized that he needs to present photos and films to do so. He finally constructed his own housings for underwater cameras for photography and film, which were significantly more handy and reliable than the few devices available. He used them to undertake numerous underwater expeditions around the globe. It was not only his camera equipment that was new, his entire method of diving was new. Previously, long descents into the depths of the sea were only possible with a diving helmet and lead shoes, walking on the seabed and connected to the surface by an air hose with a pump. Hass developed a new method that allowed him to swim in the water. He modified the diver’s fins and, crucially, together with the company Drägerwerk in Lübeck, he developed the world’s first swimming diving apparatus, an oxygen rebreather. 

With this equipment, he was now able to move like a fish in the underwater space for long periods of time. Hans Hass became a pioneer in the exploration of the hydrosphere. Through his methods, results and views, he shaped all subsequent marine research. 

After carrying out successful dives in the Mediterranean, Hans Hass started his first Caribbean expedition in 1939 at the age of 20. This resulted in the first books and numerous publications, including in the American “Life Magazine“. Under the most difficult circumstances, a film production followed during the war years: “Menschen unter Haien“ (People among sharks). In 1944, Hass graduated summa cum laude from the University of Berlin with a doctorate in zoology. 

In 1951, Hass won first prize for Austria at the Venice Biennale with his film “Adventure in the Red Sea“. In the same year, Hans Hass founded the International Institute for Submarine Research in Vaduz and bought his largest research vessel, the XARIFA. To finance this “XARIFA venture“, he produced a feature film with the same title, which earned him worldwide acclaim. He was accompanied by an international team of renowned scientists, including Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. The cinematic, photographic and scientific yield of all these sea expeditions was a milestone in the exploration of the “seventh continent“. The Hans Hass Archive manages the scientific legacy of Hans Hass in relation to his submarine field of work. In addition, the Hans Hass Archive deals with international diving history research in the entire field: technological, economic and military diving history of the early modern period and the modern age.

For David Doubilet, Hans Hass was the inspiration that allowed him to mature into the world’s most outstanding underwater photographer.

With the kind support of the Hans Hass Archive in Merzig-Weiler.

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