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Dear BESTers,

I just heard this very sad news about the death of world-renowned cave
diver, explorer, and photographer Wes Skiles. He was a great inspiration
and teacher about the environment, and particularly Florida's springs and
aquifer.

-Jason

In Memoriam: Wes Skiles, Explorer, Photographer, Colleague and Friend

            World-class explorer and image maker Wes Skiles, 52, died July
21 in a reef-diving incident in Palm Beach County, where he
had been working on assignment for National Geographic. Wes
was best known for his work in educational and adventure
science films and for his pioneering exploration and
documentation of Forida's springs. His death comes days before
publication of his cover story on the Blue Holes of the
Bahamas in the August National Geographic.
            Over the past 20 years, Wes created and produced more than a
dozen films for major networks including PBS and was a pioneer
in the field of high definition imaging, employing innovative
techniques as both an underwater and topside shooter. In
addition to his acclaimed Water's Journey series of films, he
directed the IMAX film "Journey into Amazing Caves" and led a
major National Geographic expedition to Antarctica to film the
largest iceberg in recorded history. His primary goal was to
focus public attention on the earth's most important resource,
water.
            Wes successfully filmed where no one had before. His
unstoppable spirit of adventure led him to exotic destinations
and fantastic voyages.  At ease with both motion and still
photography he divided his time working on assignment for
National Geographic Magazine and with television's top
producers of science, adventure and natural history
programming.
            Wes's devotion to the study and protection of Florida's
springs led him to serve as the education chairman of the
Florida Springs Task Force. His work in exploration and survey
within Florida's groundwater systems has been widely published
in scientific journals and publications. He established both
Karst Environmental Services and Karst Productions in order to
pursue a career centered on his primary interest.
            His bio goes on and on, with tales of escaping shark attacks
and collapsing caves and dodging hurricanes over many years,
all the while making fantastic pictures and managing to come
home in one piece. Skiles's life story reads like a screenplay
from a Jules Verne movie.
            So how did he get this job? This is my favorite part of Wes's
story. He'd be the first to tell you that in spite of an early
love of science, he barely made it out of high school, and
never went to college.
            He enrolled in the School of Life and pursued a degree in
"curiology," as he called it. Shortly thereafter he had a boat
and was running a diving business in Haiti, setting the stage
for a life of adventure to follow.
            Along the way he developed sound business acumen and figured
out how to actually get paid to shoot the pictures he loved to
shoot. Wes's adventures took him all over the world but his
first love, apart from his family, was exploring the waters of
Florida: the rivers, lakes, coasts, swamps and especially the
springs. The writer Loren Eisley said that if there's magic to
be found on the planet, it is to be found in water. Eisley and
Skiles would have found much in common.
            Wes was about more than just adventuring for the sake of a
good time. He was a man on a mission, and his mission was to
educate and to inspire the people of Florida; to show us and
teach us about our remarkable array of water resources and how
each of us has a role to play in safeguarding this precious
resource.
            Wes largely directed his efforts to reach out to people who
generally paid little attention to the environment, and was
equally at ease talking to schoolchildren, dairy farmers and
governors.
            He knew his work made a difference when he got letters such as
the one that read, "You've done for the springs of Florida
what Jacques Cousteau did for the oceans."
            Wes was a towering inspiration. His work took us places we
could never imagine, and helped us to see and appreciate the
world in a new light. His impact lives on. And for that, Wes,
on behalf of my grandchildren yet unborn, and for all the
people of Florida who never had a chance to personally
acknowledge the important work you did, I say thank you.

--John Moran
July 22, 2010
JohnMoranPhoto.com<http://JohnMoranPhoto.com/>

[cid:EADC3ECE-6023-4681-841D-2DA1DF2431CB]
Ever the teacher, Wes Skiles speaks at a meeting of the Ichetucknee
Springs Water Quality Working Group at Ichetucknee Springs State Park in
Fort White, Fla. Skiles, who died on July 21 in a diving incident in Palm
Beach County while on assignment for National Geographic, was deeply
involved with the study and protection of Florida's springs, and served as
the education chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force. (photo by John
Moran, circa 1995/ JohnMoranPhoto.com<http://JohnMoranPhoto.com>)


[cid:[log in to unmask]]
Wes Skiles, photographed at Ginnie Springs in 2001, shortly before
departing to co-lead a National Geographic-sponsored expedition to
Antarctica to document and photograph the largest iceberg in history.
(photo by John Moran/JohnMoranPhoto.com)