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Wes Skiles, Pioneering Adventure Photographer

In Memoriam

Wes Skiles: Photo by Luis Lamar
Photo of Wes Skiles by Luis Lamar
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The diving community has lost a pioneer. Wes Skiles, world-renowned underwater explorer, pioneer cave diver and award winning photographer and videographer has died in a diving accident off the coast of Florida.

Wes died Wednesday, July 21, 2010 when he failed to surface after a dive about three miles east of the Boynton Beach Inlet. According to Teri Barbera of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office, Wes had been diving with a group of other divers when he indicated to them that he was out of film and would surface. Minutes later, when the remainder of the group began their ascent, they noticed Skiles lying motionless on the bottom. Skiles was later pronounced dead at St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he had been taken after being brought to the surface. The cause of his death has not been determined. Skiles was 52.

We at Eco-Photo Explorers wish to acknowledge the loss of Wes Skiles. Wes’s career in underwater cave exploration was remarkable and pioneering. But it was his ability to capture the sublime beauty on film that brought him his greatest acclaim. Wes’s photography brought the viewer into the dangerous world of underwater cave systems and revealed the hidden spectacle of Earth’s subterranean world for all to see. His films were heart-stopping, awe-inspiring adventures which left you breathless as he documented the exploits of the small group of cave explorers that dare to venture into that world.

When we first met Wes Skiles at the 2010 Our World Underwater show in Chicago, we discovered a man of great texture. We were about to present our photography on Antarctica to the Saturday Night Film Festival audience and Wes was to be the MC for the evening. During the preparation meeting, Wes spent time with each and every presenter, interviewing them and getting to know them personally so that he could introduce them with genuine knowledge and respect for their work. Wes asked us about our background and our interests as he tried in those few short moments to really get to know us. And when he learned that we would be presenting material on Antarctica, he regaled us with his own exploits from that region and shared a story of diving in an ice cave, deep inside an iceberg in which he nearly lost his life. He told the story in a funny and humble way, and despite his wealth of experience and penchant for extreme diving exploration, he never minimized our own work and treated our efforts with the utmost respect. It was a genuine honor to be introduced to that audience by Wes Skiles.

In an ironic turn of fate, Wes’s work appears in the current National Geographic Magazine. His photography of the Blue Holes in the Bahamas is featured prominently, including a dramatic cover shot. It is the perfect way to get to know the work of this true underwater pioneer. It is also a fitting honor to the man who brought the world of underwater cave systems to life for the rest of us to marvel at.

May Wes Skiles rest in peace.

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Last update on: September 17, 2010

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