This edited article about diving originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 704 published on 12 July 1975.
Fright paralysed Lotte Hass. For a moment, she hung suspended in the warm tropical waters, staring in disbelief at the amazing creature which was swimming towards her.
It was like nothing she had ever seen before, for it is not everyone’s lot to come face to face with a manta ray. And this one had huge flippers which gave it a wingspan of over fifteen feet. Its features were frighteningly equipped with two large lobes which it used to shovel food into its mouth.
Lotte felt particularly defenceless in her skin-diving suit and face mask because all she had for her protection was a harpoon.
But she had been asked to swim close to the creature for a film about underwater life being made by her husband, Hans Hass, whose films have been shown on television in Britain. He had assured her that the manta ate nothing but tiny marine creatures called plankton, and had no teeth at all.
Nevertheless, she swam towards the manta, which passed over her like a floating bus. Something struck her on the shoulder. Air bubbles swirled everywhere and Lotte rolled downwards until she was caught by a powerful current that dragged her to one side.
Once the creature had passed, she surfaced unhurt, save for the graze where part of the manta’s body had scraped her.
This exciting adventure was one of many Lotte experienced after joining Hans Hass, the famous Austrian underwater diver, first as his secretary, and then as his wife.
After proving her skill as an underwater photographer and as an attractive swimmer in his films, Lotte accompanied Hans on many of his expeditions.
One of these took them upon an exploration of a wrecked ship. Hans had found a chart of a reef where a wrecked ship had been marked. It was a Russian cargo vessel which had sunk eighty years earlier.
They anchored above the ship and went down to find it. Lotte and Hans floated among swirling fishes until they saw what looked like a heap of old iron tossed into disorder by a whirlwind.
There was a coral encrusted ship’s ladder, a winch . . . and then their search rewarded them with a sight of the ship’s hull and the deck. Every second brought more excitement – the kind of excitement Lotte loves as an explorer of the secret world beneath the waves.
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