Distinguished local diver Leslie Leaney will present the premiere of “The Man Who Discovered the Sea,” a film about another diving legend, Hans Hass, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM), at the Santa Barbara Harbor, 113 Harbor Way.
Known by divers internationally as the pioneer of the pioneers, Hass started his diving career in the 1930s. He was the first free-swimming film-maker to film and photograph sharks, manta rays and whales in their natural environment.
A prolific writer, Hass had published six books on diving by 1950. He left the underwater world in 1960 and was largely forgotten by the diving industry. Hass met Santa Barbara-based diving historian Leaney in 1997 and they formed a partnership that led to a revival of interest in Hass’ pioneering career.
In 1998 Leaney and Ed Stetson brought Hass and his wife Lotte to Santa Barbara for a film festival at the Arlington Theatre honoring his career. The film festival was used as the climax of the film “The Man Who Discovered the Sea,” but the film was never released in America.
In the upcoming program, Leaney will present the Santa Barbara residents and the background involved in the Arlington film festival and will show the complete movie.
Born in London, Leaney is a founding trustee of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. He started diving in 1969 and progressed through the British Sub Aqua Club system, eventually becoming the diving officer for BSAC Special Branch in Singapore.
In the 1970s, he worked for the late King Hussein of Jordan, diving in the Red Sea and in the Maldives, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, England, Malta, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
In 1980, Leaney moved to California and started to pursue his interest in diving history. In 1992, he co-founded the Historical Diving Society USA, and in 1993 he founded the Journal of Diving History.
In 1997, he became the North American representative for Austrian pioneer divers Hans and Lotte Hass, and later became the first executive director of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.
Leaney’s research has appeared in international publications and is referenced by numerous authors. He has worked as a consultant for The History Channel, BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Society, American PBS, and United States Navy.
In recognition of his services to diving history, Leaney has been inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, Commercial Diving Hall of Fame, and California Wreck Divers Hall of Fame.
He has been awarded the DEMA Reaching Out Award, Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences NOGI Award for Education, Beneath the Sea Diver of the Year Award for Service, Wyland Foundation ICON Award, and honorary lifetime memberships in the Historical Societies of Russia, Canada and South East Asia, Pacific.
He is a fellow of the Explorers Club and the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences and, by the nomination and sponsorship of Major C. Lambertsen, M.D., “The Father of American Combat Swimming,” a lifetime member of the U.D.T. Seal Association.
Cost to attend the event is $10 for SBMM members, $20 for non-members. To register, visit www.sbmm.org or call 805-456-8747. Doors open to SBMM members at 6:15 p.m., to non-members at 6:45 p.m. The event is sponsored by Marie L Morrisroe.
For more about the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, visit sbmm.org or call (805) 962-8404.