Book review: Drawn To The Deep

By Michel Gilbert& Danielle Alary

Chicago February 2010- our latest multimedia presentation is about to end. We are part of the Our World Underwater Film Festival roster. Big names like Howard and Michele Hall are showing their latest movies, including Wes Skiles, who is also the emcee. Wesa presentation on the Bahamas Blue Holes features what a National Geographic photo editor calls: aone of the best underwater paintings ever made.a He got the cover of Nat Geo with this project.

As our program draws to an end, Wes climbings the stairs to the podium. We anxiously wait to hear what he will say about our work.

A self-described redneck who prospers under icebergs or miles into underwater caves, Wes is the ultimate adventurer. How will he react to a poetic fable about imaginary island peopleas legend about the creation of the oceans?

He opens his mouth and nothing “re coming out”. He swallows and gives it another try. This time, instead of his typical redneck loud voice who boasts about swimming with alligators, we hear our colleague struggle to say: aWhat most of us do is documentary stuff, what we just ensure on the screen tonight is art.a

That night, we realized that Wes was not only the persona full of testosterone that shows up on stage to thrill the audience; behind the bravado was a very warm and emotional person.

Six months later, Wes was dead. He perished on a casual dive off Floridaas East Coast.

Drawn to the Deep , a volume about Wesa life of exploration, brings us behind the scene into those mile-long caverns and aquifers.A Like this world that he loved so much, Wesa life was full of spins, turns, astonishes, darkness, and wonderment.

Many of us knew Wes the public and outgoing character. In this volume we take, to paraphrase his award-winning documentaryas title, Wes Wateras Journey.

Author Julie Hauserman beautifully describes how a kid labeled as adifferenta grows up to become a legend in the world of exploration, photography, and filmmaking. In the process we learn the high price paid to venture in uncharted territories, attain improbable imagesa | and survive.A

Multiple bendings suits leaving permanent damage, chronic pain, dysentery, dengue fever, coeliac cancer, and a bout with analgesic craving only add to the extreme stress experienced as a businessman running a company where amoney was going out faster than it was coming in.a

Surviving Hurricane Gilbert in the 80 as, being bitten by a shark, or scarcely constructing it as a freak current threatens to suck him under the B-1 5 iceberg in Atarctica; those were the death-defying stories that thrilled audiences.

Anyone who envisage Wes on stage or in front of a camera remembers his loud voice and thunderous chuckles. In reality, what appeared larger-than-life meant something else. As Wes wrote: aWhen you can keep control of your fears, you can survive what others could call their worst nightmare.a

What looked like shooting from the hip was, quite to the contrary, a run where aWes was constantly second-guessing the choices he made in the field always supposing he could have taken a better picture.a

Few people know that besides his documentary film work, Wesa company, Karst Production, had a scientific affiliate, Karst Environmental, that produced valuable scientific work for corporate and governmental clients.

Through his journey, Skiles became an advocate for the environmental issues, especially Florida aquifer. He did not have a degree, and that made some governmental agencies dubious about his opinions or findings. He nonetheless made an incredible contribution to a better understanding of the water cycle in his home state of Florida.

Wesa magic could turn a roll of Kraft paper into a $250 K grant to film Wateras Journey and his uncanny imagination could make a film about the incredible Hydrillasaurus…

This environmental lecturer, like many stone starrings, had a meltdown in later years. That resulted him to rethink his professional and personal life. When death struck, he was going through a resurgence. In 2009 he wrote in his journal: aIam getting back in great shape; guessing clearer and feeling better, more confident about who I am and what Iam doing.a

Like an inscription to his run, Wes eventually attained the covering of Nat Geo in August 2010, one month after his death. It was a lifelong pursuit chronicled in the book. As he said: aI donat usually actually worry about a lot of things- but I do about taking pictures for the greatest publication on Earth.a

Wes loved diving and the underwater environment more that anyone. That induce him bond with the top brass at Nat Geo as well as with Tallahasseeas politicians or Joe Diver at a dive indicate. In short, he loved life.A

Drawn to the Deep will resonate like his opening aHey Nowa did when he jumped on stage.A

ISBN : 9780813056 982

Retail price: $24.95

Publisher: University Press A of Florida

Web: A www.upf.com

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