First underwater movie (Filmed by freedivers)
Last updated: March 5, 2020 at 3:19 am
Pirsch unter Wasser | 1940 — Hans Hass directed and produced Pirsch unter Wasser (Underwater Stalking), the first underwater movie filmed by freedivers off Curaçao in 1939. The first version of the film, which was published by Universum Film AG in 1940, lasted 16 minutes. It was extended with underwater scenes from the Adriatic Sea off the city of Dubrovnik (Croatia) in 1942. The final version premiered at Berlin’s Ufa Theater Tauentzienpalast on May 8, 1942. The underwater images were filmed with a Movikon K16 (16 mm) camera in a custom-built housing. The film crew spent up to five hours a day in the water at depths not exceeding 10 m (33 ft) and although Hass could hold his breath for four minutes, most film sequences lasted no more than one minute. While in the Netherlands Antilles, Hass and his diving colleagues, Jörg Böhler and Alfred von Wurzian, were suspected of being spies before the film shoot ended prematurely at the outbreak of WWII in Europe.
The definitive version (1942) of Hans Hass’ movie was released while Jacques-Yves Cousteau was filming his first underwater movie, Par dix-huit mètres de fond, with Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas and Léon Vêche off the southern coast of France. Cousteau’s first film production, which was also filmed by freedivers, premiered at the Palais de Chaillot on April 12, 1943, almost one year after Pirsch unter Wasser, and just a few months before his first movie filmed by divers on scuba.
The year (1942) posted on the Cousteau video below, was the year the images were filmed. The movie was actually released in 1943.
Filmwelt – The Film and Photo Magazine, No. 4; February 28, 1941, Hans Emil Dits
Hans-Hass-Institut für Submarine Forschung und Tauchtechnik
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Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.