Hans Hass Institut für Submarine Forschung und Tauchtechnik

Hans Hass Fifty Fathoms Award

Awarded in Recognition of Contribution Made to the Advancement of Our Knowledge of the Ocean


The Hans Hass »Fifty Fathoms« Award was founded in 2002 by California-based diving historian Leslie Leaney. Working with Professor Hass as his North American representative, Leaney established the criteria, guidelines, committee composition and design of the award. The criteria for nomination involve honoring individuals or organisations who, in the spirit of Professor Hass’ pioneering work in the fields of underwater science, technology, arts and literature, have excelled at an international level in any of those fields. It is presented by the Historical Diving Society USA and since 2013 sponsored by the Swiss company Blancpain, the oldest watch manufacturer in the world.

The award is bestowed under one of two categories: Arts and literature in recognition of Professor Hass’ pioneering work in both underwater imagery and the printed word; and science and technology in recognition of Professor Hass’ pioneering work in marine sciences and underwater technical innovation.

The award is not endowed. A personalized Fifty Fathoms watch is presented to the recipients along with the award itself, which is a framed cast bronze plaque, designed by ocean artist Wyland, showing an image of Hans Hass wearing an oxygen rebreather during his solo 1949 Red Sea expedition.


The Name of the Award


Driven by its own pioneering spirit since its foundation in 1735, Blancpain enjoys a connection with diving going back to 1953, when the watch manufacturer developed a diver’s timepiece for the combat forces of the French navy: the Fifty Fathoms. This mechanical masterpiece was named after its guaranteed water resistance to 50 fathoms (91.45 metres) and has defined the characteristics of diving watches ever since.

Today, the collection remains the benchmark in the field, combining watchmaking expertise with indispensable safety standards. Blancpain’s passion for the underwater world has led to its commitment to helping as many people as possible learn about this vast and mysterious universe. The brand believes that people can only respect and protect what they love, and can only love what they know.

To serve this mission, Blancpain strongly supports oceans exploration, research, and conservation projects like the Gombessa expeditions of French scientist Laurent Ballesta, and publishes Edition Fifty Fathoms, which is dedicated to underwater science and adventure and has distinguished itself with its extraordinary photography. Blancpain also has a partnership with record-holding free diver Gianluca Genoni and is a long-time partner of The Economist‘s World Oceans Summit.



Laudatio von Prof. Dr. Ralph O. Schill für Franz Brümmer
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Previous Recipients



Professor Dr. Franz Brümmer (GERMANY), marine scientist & President of Verband Deutscher Sporttaucher (VDST)



Howard and Michele Hall (USA), natural history film producers specialised in marine wildlife and marine conservation films



Professor Weicheng Cui and the Chinese State Oceanic Administration (CHINA), deep ocean submersible and deep ocean technology



Laurent Ballesta (FRANCE), technical diver and film maker



Sylvia Earle (USA), marine scientist



Bev Morgan (USA), international diving equipment manufacturer



Stan Waterman (USA), underwater film and photography



Daniel Mercier (FRANCE), Underwater Film and Photography Festival organizer



James Cameron (USA), (Diver and) international filmmaker and adventurer



Ernie Brooks II (USA), Underwater photographer and educator


The Hans Hass Fifty Fathoms Awards Comitee


The Honorable Krov Menuhin (Chairman)

Krov is internationally known for his lengthy career in underwater film and photography, working with the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK, and 25 years with the French programme Ushuaia, among others. His diving background includes both military and commercial diving and he is the author of numerous maritime articles published internationally. He is a long-time friend of Professor Hass, who personally appointed him as Chairman of the Committee.


Leslie Leaney (Executive Director)

The founder of the Hans Hass Fifty Fathoms Award and one of the industry’s few recognised diving historians, Leslie learnt to dive in Singapore in 1969. In 1992 he co-founded the Historical Diving Society USA and in 1993, he founded the Journal of Diving History. The recipient of numerous industry awards for his historical work he was inducted into The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in 2012.


Ernie Brooks II (Director)

As the owner of the Brooks Institute of Photography Ernie pioneered course-taught underwater photography. His extensive portfolio was highlighted in his book, Silver Seas, and his work is displayed in galleries and museums around the globe. Following the art of black and white underwater photography established by Professor Hass, Ernie was the recipient of the first Hans Hass Fifty Fathoms Award.


Laurent Ballesta (Director)

As an accomplished marine biologist and underwater filmmaker and photographer, Laurent has spent his career pushing the boundaries of diving. He rose to international acclaim and attention with his series of dives past 100 metres and was the first diver to film the coelacanth, the living fossil, in its deep natural habitat. He is the recipient of the 2013 Hans Hass Fifty Fathoms Award.