Not all superheroes wear capes. Likewise, not all Sub Pilots grow up near the ocean. Kenneth Hauge started off in the landlocked state of South Dakota and took a bold step to move to Florida after high school.
I was always a fan of Jules Verne and Jacques Cousteau,” says Hauge. “I’ve wanted to save the ocean from bad folks since I was a child.
He started by graduating from the Commercial Diving Academy (CDA) in Jacksonville, Florida and went on to do salvage work in Miami. When his path crossed with a yellow submersible passing by on the surface—later identified as Antipodes—Hauge was working for a seagrass restoration company, managing dive operations for the restoration project in Biscayne Bay. Not too long after the encounter, he took his first dive in Antipodes near the Alpha Oscar buoy in Everett, Washington.
Hauge has been with OceanGate for four years now, working his way up from Support Diver to Submersible Technician to Chief Submersible Pilot. His favorite part about piloting is “The feeling of not knowing what we may encounter every dive” and “taking people who have never been in a submersible and seeing their reactions.” The most difficult part about piloting the submersible? “Operating the sub is easy,” says Hauge. “Operating it well is a different story. Multi-tasking plays a big part in operating a manned submersible, especially in poor visibility. Navigating in low visibility can be tricky to do correctly.”
He has been an integral part of multiple expeditions over the years, his most memorable being the Lionfish Expedition 2012 in Florida: “This was the first time I ever did a solo pilot dive with clients. The dive went perfect.” The previous dives involved “searching for a particular wreck with no luck.” But with Hauge at the helm, they dropped right on the bow of the wreck. “I got lucky,” says Hauge.
Hauge always seems to be in the right place at the right time. On our recent Possession Sound Research Dives, he was expertly multi-tasking, watching sonar while driving the sub to find new places to explore. He saw what seemed to be a bundle of lines, but not quite. He notified the crew of his plan and to watch for lines. As Cyclops1 moved forward, red lines started to appear…but they weren’t lines. They were the tentacles of a lion’s mane jellyfish, the largest jelly species known to man. The crew was amazed by the beautiful creature and paused for a couple of minutes before heading off to investigate new areas, which included yet another discovery of a small forest of plumose anemones at the base of a sea wall off Hat Island.
If Hauge were a superhero, his power would be oddly impeccable timing for breathtaking and serene encounters with marine life. In yet another example, Hauge found himself face-to-face with a great white shark when he was down in Guadalupe Island, Mexico doing contract work for another group. The photo won a contest hosted by Teledyne Marine.
No matter how far his submersible successes take him in life, Hauge remains humble and grateful for those who supported him along the way.
My inspiration growing up came from my parents always telling me to do what makes me happy in life. This is what brought me to Florida, where I met my wife. My wife was the driving factor that allowed me to pursue commercial diving and eventually piloting manned submersibles. She is always a huge help, and her support was crucial as I made those initial decisions to pursue diving and submersible piloting.
Outside of piloting, Hauge and his wife foster and adopt rescue dogs. Their beagle, Lily, came from the Beagle Freedom Project and “was originally meant to be a foster but turned quickly into an adoption.” Throughout the past year the duo has worked with Saving Great Animals and fostered three dogs with conditions ranging from perfectly healthy to needing an amputation and rehab. Thanks to the loving care and patience from the Hauge household, these animals can heal and find a forever home. “They are a joy to have around and hard to let go. The happiness and gratitude that comes from these animals is indescribable and highly addictive,” says Hauge.
Whether to find new species, an undiscovered shipwreck, or the Titanic in 2021, we can’t wait to see where Kenneth Hauge’s internal compass takes us next.