Lotte Hass, an Austrian diver and underwater filmmaker who at midcentury helped shatter the glass floor that had long kept women from the ocean’s depths, died on Jan. 14 in Vienna. She was 86.
Her death was announced by the Hans Hass Institute, an oceanographic research organization based in Germany and named for her husband and regular collaborator.
Often called the first lady of diving, Ms. Hass was known in equal measure for her intrepid adventures and her striking good looks. The Daily Mail, the British newspaper, once described her as “one of the most beautiful women who has ever prowled under the sea with a spear.”
Throughout the 1950s, she and her husband were featured often on European television, and her image appeared in magazines worldwide. After she became known to international filmgoers through her appearances in his underwater documentaries, Ms. Hass reportedly turned down offers from Hollywood in order to stay beneath the sea.
She began her career by literal immersion as an underwater model, diving for Mr. Hass’s camera amid coral reefs, barracuda and sharks, wearing a revealing bathing suit instead of the customary wet suit. Over time she learned to wield an underwater camera, and shot footage for some of his films.
Under her maiden name, Lotte Baierl, Ms. Hass made her screen debut in 1951 in “Under the Red Sea” (also titled “Adventures in the Red Sea”), a widely praised documentary by her husband. She went on to appear in several other films of his, including “Under the Caribbean,” released in 1954.
Charlotte Hildegard Baierl was born in Vienna on Nov. 6, 1928. When she was about 19, she answered an advertisement from Mr. Hass, who was seeking a secretary. After he hired her, she implored him to let her come along on his underwater expeditions. He demurred — an oceanographic vessel, he said, was no fit place for a woman.
In the end, after learning to dive, she wore him down, assisted by his film company, which quickly saw the value of a beautiful, submersible star.
“From tomorrow on, you are a man,” Mr. Hass, capitulating, was said to have told her. That dictum notwithstanding, she became his second wife in 1950; she accompanied him on expeditions around the world before devoting herself to motherhood.
Mr. Hass died in 2013. Survivors include their daughter, Meta Raunig-Hass.
Ms. Hass, who was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2000, was the author of a memoir, published in English in 1972 as “Girl on the Ocean Floor.”
In the middle to late 1950s, she and her husband were the hosts of two series, “Diving to Adventure” and “The Undersea World of Adventure,”broadcast on British television. But Ms. Hass had come to the attention of at least one American viewer some years before.
Reviewing “Under the Red Sea” in The New York Times in 1952, Bosley Crowther waxed voluble on her aqueous presence.
“It seems to be the full, athletic figure of the young lady, Lotte Baierl, on which the submarine cameras are focused with most consistent regularity,” he wrote.
He added, in effusive understatement, “This is not in the least disconcerting.”