Wesley C. Skiles
Born(1958-03-06)March 6, 1958
DiedJuly 21, 2010(2010-07-21) (aged 52)
Occupation(s)Cinematographer, explorer

Wesley C. Skiles (March 6, 1958 – July 21, 2010) was an American cave diving pioneer, explorer, and underwater cinematographer.[1] Skiles lived in High Springs, Florida.


Skiles was born on March 6, 1958, in Jacksonville, Florida, and grew up there. He attended Englewood High School where he graduated in 1976. He died on July 21, 2010, while diving near West Palm Beach, Florida.

Skiles started diving when he was eight years old and recalled that he took to water "quite like a fish."[2] A classmate recalled the incident that sparked Skiles' interest in scuba diving and caves. During the 1973–74 school year, the Fossil Club took a field trip to Ginnie Springs. Skiles watched several divers emerge from the spring's caves, and excitedly asked them questions about their hobby. On the ride back to Jacksonville, he kept saying, "That is what I want to do."[3] Pioneering cave diver George Benjamin was an early influence on Skiles' photography.[4]


In 1985, Skiles founded Karst Productions and continued his underwater film career. Skiles was a proponent of cave divers using their skills to assist with scientific diving projects.[5]

Skiles worked at a dive store in Branford, Florida, named Branford Dive Center. He and fellow cave instructor Gene Broome mapped and laid safety line for many of the underwater spring caves.[6]

Skiles conducted film projects for many groups such as the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Antarctica expedition allowed him to be the first human to set foot on the Iceberg B-15.[7] His expedition to record deepwater sharks had him diving to a depth of 700 FSW for 11 hours in a "Newtsuit".[7]

Skiles created, directed, and was the cinematographer of the PBS series, Water's Journey. The project was an effort by Skiles to increase public awareness of their groundwater and the hydrogeological cycle.[6]

In addition to still photography, Skiles' work includes more than one hundred films for television that he filmed, directed, and produced.[8]


Beneath The Sea recognized Skiles as their "Diver of the Year" for education in 1996.

In 2004, Skiles was awarded the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Suncoast Regional Emmy Award for his work on the Water's Journey series.[9]

In 2009, he received the annual HDFEST Deffie Awards for best HD documentary and best cinematography for the Water's Journey series. The awards are given for "accomplishments in High-Definition Indie Filmmaking".

In 2011, Skiles was posthumously awarded National Geographic's "Explorer of the Year" award, jointly with his longtime colleague and friend, Kenny Broad.


Skiles died while on a dive off Boynton Beach, Florida, on July 21, 2010.[1] He signaled to the other divers that he was ascending because his camera was out of memory.[1] His body was found on the reef shortly after that. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was subsequently pronounced dead at a local hospital. An autopsy showed that Skiles had taken Ambien and Hydrocodone.[10]

Skiles is survived by his wife Terri, and their two children Nathan and Tessa Skiles.

On November 16, 2010, the State Parks division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection renamed Peacock Springs Park in Skiles' honor.[11]

In 2016, Skiles' widow filed a lawsuit claiming that equipment malfunctioned causing his death, even though he was inexperienced on the rebreather he was using and ignored safety features that were functioning properly.[10] The company was cleared of all charges on May 20, 2016 by a Palm Beach County jury.[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Underwater photographer Wesley Skiles dies". Miami Herald. Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-07-22. [dead link]
  2. ^ O'Neill, Claire. "Wes Skiles, Pioneering Adventure Photographer, Dies At 52". NPR.org. NPR. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  3. ^ Scanlan, Dan (2010-07-23). "Underwater photographer Wes Skiles remembered by classmates". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  4. ^ Burgess, Robert F. (1999). The Cave Divers. Locust Valley, New York: Aqua Quest Publications. p. 285. ISBN 1-881652-11-4. LCCN 96-39661.
  5. ^ Skiles, Wesley C (1987). "The scientific future of cave diving". In: Mitchell, CT (Eds.) Diving for Science 86. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences Sixth Annual Scientific Diving Symposium. Held October 31 – November 3, 1986 in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved 2011-01-16.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ a b "Water's Journey: The Series". Karst Productions. Archived from the original on 2010-07-24. Retrieved 2010-07-22.
  7. ^ a b Zigahn, Armand (2010-07-22). "Sad news". Beneath the Sea.
  8. ^ "Wes Skiles" National Geographic Society, photographer biography
  9. ^ "2004 Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards Program Winners". National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2010-07-22.
  10. ^ a b Musgrave, Jane (2016-05-20). "Jury clears Lamartek, dba Dive Rite, in death of diver Wes Skiles". Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  11. ^ Bill, Keevan. "Wes Skiles Peacock Springs Park" (PDF). Retrieved September 12, 2011.
  12. ^ Musgrave, Jane (2016-05-20). "Dive-equipment maker cleared in photographer's death". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2016-05-21.