JANUARY 2011: My Surface Interval named one of the best scuba diving blogs

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wes Skiles: In memory of an amazing photographer

THIS amazing image of cave divers taken 80ft beneath the surface of the Bahamas graces the cover of the new edition of the National Geographic magazine.

But it's publication is twinged with sadness.

Wes Skiles, the highly thought of photographer of the shot (actually a composite of three images), 52, died last month during a research expedition examining underwater wildlife in his home state of Florida, just days after publication.

Bahamas Blue Holes was his last story for the magazine. The images were described as a "testament to his photographic skills, courage and child-like wonder in the search for the unknown".

An investigation is now under way to determine why Skiles was found unconscious and underwater near a reef and had not returned to the surface, as friends had thought he had.

National Geographic Society Editor in Chief Chris Johns said: "Wes was a true explorer in every sense and a wonderful spirit.
"He set a standard for underwater photography, cinematography and exploration that is unsurpassed. It was an honor to work with him, and he will be deeply missed."

Keenan Smart, National Geographic Television Natural History Unit added: "Wes Skiles was a brave, brilliant and pioneering underwater cameraman with an extraordinary passion for exploring and documenting the world of cave and technical diving.
"His knowledge, courage and expertise in this field was tremendous and he played a vital role in improving safety procedures for diving in difficult and dangerous conditions.
"His explorations of his beloved Florida cave systems contributed a great deal to our understanding of groundwater science and the dynamics of water flow through Florida's karst aquifers. It was this knowledge that led him to name his company Karst Productions.
"Over the years Wes participated in numerous filming expeditions worldwide and his creative work featured in many award winning films.

Sadie Quarrier, senior photo editor, National Geographic Magazine added: "He was deeply passionate about diving, exploring, photographing and protecting the waterways. H
"is boyish enthusiasm was infectious, and he delighted in telling non-divers about the wilder aspects of his watery underworld.
"Wes was big-hearted and humble yet extremely driven. He was doggedly determined to produce the best possible article on these caves he called home. He dared to dream big, and no budget or contract would stop him from going after a shot he felt we needed, even if it was on his own dime.
"But what I will remember most about my friend is his absolutely wonderful sense of humor, his over-the-top descriptions when he was really enthused about what he had just seen, and his twinkling eyes. He was sort of the Santa Claus of the underwater world, bringing us gifts that we could never get on our own."

The story about Bahamas Blue Holes also featured in the documentary extreme cave diving that
Skiles worked on.

The production followed the team of scientists as they ventured into blue holes (formed during the last ice age and are one of Earth's least explored and perhaps most dangerous frontiers) as they discovered intriguing evidence of the earliest human inhabitants of the islands, found animals seen nowhere else on Earth, and recovered a remarkable record of the planet's climate.

For more on the Biology of Marine Caves try Anchialine Caves and Cave Fauna
or click on the link for info on the Bahamas Caves Research Foundation

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