It didn’t take Tish Hase long to figure out one of her life’s passions.
When a dive shop came to Waukesha South High School to offer students a chance to experience scuba diving, Hase gave it a try and jumped into the pool.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “It was so cool to breathe underwater, and everything’s weightless.”
By the time she graduated, Hase was a certified open water diver.
Fast forward several years.
Hase opened Port Deco Divers with T.J. Frank in Port Washington in 2016.
Regular customers come from across the country and as far as Madagascar, she said.
Hase wants to share her joy of diving with others.
Deco Divers now runs monthly dives at pools in Port and Kohler.
Hase said the goal is to get scuba diving into physical education departments.
She has some breathtaking experiences to share from her estimated 500 to 1,000 dives.
After marrying at 21 years old, Hase honeymooned in Hawaii, where she dove in the ocean.
She saw volcanic rock and got to within several feet of leatherback sea turtles and saw eels, scorpionfish and frogfish.
She turned down a dive at night when hammerhead sharks come into the bay.
Six years ago, Hase dove off of Truk Lagoon, an island in the South Pacific that was used as a Japanese base during World War II.
Hase got to see the shipwreck of the San Francisco Maru, a passenger cargo ship that Japan used to transport navy supplies during the war.
It is one of 60 Japanese ships and planes that were sunk in the area.
Hase was able to get into the cargo holds.
She saw tanks and machine guns on top of the deck and saw old cars inside.
On another wreck, Hase saw 3,000 bottles of beer and cars.
A human skull was embedded into the ship’s wall.
Hase wants to go back before the historical remnants are gone.
Salt water is eating away at the ships and planes.
She swam with whale sharks near Isla Mujeres off the east coast of Mexico, and has seen Germany’s U-352 off the coast of North Carolina in 100 feet of water.
Hase said dives closer to home can be as interesting, as plenty of ships in Lake Michigan are waiting to be explored.
She has taken a group of divers to the Tennie and Laura about 10 miles off the Port coast.
“All the shipwrecks we have here are just phenomenal,” she said. “It’s 150 years of history you can actually touch.”
Hase may only dive to 130 feet as a Professional Association of Diving Instructors dive master, and said she doesn’t necessarily need to go deeper.
“It’s not how deep I go, it’s what I want to see,” she said.
She would, however, like to spend more time near wrecks.
At Truck Lagoon, she only spent about 12 minutes at her deepest point, taking as many photos as she could.
She would like to get a rebreather, which recycles air and allows divers to stay deeper longer.
Someday, Hase said, she would like to dive off of Iceland, where divers may put their hands on two different continents at one time.
For those interested in diving, Hase recommends going to one of Deco Divers’ pool demonstrations and, if the interest persists, getting certified.
A lifetime certification costs $499, she said.
Fully equipped diving can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000. Deco Divers rents equipment.
She cautions that Hollywood doesn’t provide the correct impression of the growing niche sport.
The 2017 movie “47 Meters Down” didn’t do diving justice in that people cannot survive 150 feet deep on one tank of air, she said.
Now, Hase has a new passion that would allow for intriguing diving and help the environment.
Hase founded the nonprofit organization Shipwreck Education and Preservation Alliance (SEAPA) that is looking to sink a ship, preferably a Coast Guard cutter, in Lake Michigan near Port Washington.
The ship would create a safe haven for fish, populations of which Hase said she has seen decline in the lake the past couple of decades.
The plan also calls for Ozaukee County’s high schools to create large ceramic and metal sculptures — up to 500 pounds each — for fish habitats.
A staircase would be built off of the north breakwater to allow easy access for snorkeling and diving.
Those efforts, Hase said, would help the lake’s health and its fishing industry, and “it would draw people to the area.”
In addition, she hopes to sink a vehicle and allow public safety agencies to practice rescues.
The closest place to practice, she said, is Pearl Lake in Illinois.
Since all the items would be clean when sunk, scientists could study how invasive species attach to them.
Hase is working with the state Department of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, Artificial Reefs International of Key West, Fla.
She hopes the initiative can continue for decades and become a footprint for other communities to follow to help improve lake environments.
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