Wes C. Skiles, a freelance photographer for National Geographic Magazine, died Wednesday while filming underwater in the ocean off Florida, his home state. He was 52.
Photo of Wes Skiles by Luis Lamar
"National Geographic has learned of the tragic death of Wes Skiles, the accomplished underwater photographer, cinematographer and explorer with whom we've worked frequently," the National Geographic Society said in a statement today. "The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident, which occurred following the conclusion of a scientific research expedition related to marine life off the east coast of Florida. Our thoughts are with Wes' family."
A photograph by Skiles is the current (August) cover story of National Geographic. Editor in Chief Chris Johns devoted his "Editor's Note" to the photographer in the same issue (Editor's Note: Diving Bahamas Caves). A gallery of Skiles' photos for the story can be seen online: Deep Dark Secrets.
"Wes was a true explorer in every sense and a wonderful spirit," Chris Johns said today. "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."
"Wes was a big bear of a man who had a tender heart. His tenacity to get after stories and make them the best they could be was second to none," said Kurt Mutchler, executive editor, photography.
"He loved working for the magazine--and the feeling was mutual. He recently told me that his mother was always getting after him to work more for us, and I am deeply saddened we won't have that opportunity. His last story for us, Bahamas Blue Holes, made the August 2010 cover. It's a testament to Wes's photographic skills, courage and child-like wonder in the search for the unknown. He will be sorely missed," Mutchler said.
Wes Skiles' photograph (above) of veteran cave diver Brian Kakuk lifting a more than 3,000-year-old Cuban crocodile skull--an animal no longer found in the Bahamas--from sediment in Sawmill Sink is one of two dozen photos featured in the July 2010 National Geographic Magazine online gallery "Deep Dark Secrets."
National Geographic Freelance Photographer Wes Skiles Dies - NatGeo News Watch