Drawn to the Deep is a fascinating new book by Julie Hauserman, centered on the life of extreme diver and photographer, Wes Skiles, who passed away in 2010. Skiles was famed for bringing ‘dark alien worlds to PBX, IMAX, and the Discovery Channel, and managed to escape many dangerous scrapes he encountered while doing what he loved best: diving. The diver was once buried alive in a cave in Australia and almost eaten by a shark, who he had to fight off with his camera. As noted by Hauserman, Skiles’ prize from such a dangerous escapade was the “close-up photos of the great white jagged’s teeth” – proof that he had survived this dangerous experience.
In search of the rush
Skiles was obsessed with danger. The Washington Post noted that it was his passion for putting his limits to the test that led him to discover sites such as underwater Bahama caves and their submerged stalactites. Skiles’ motivation was summed up in his online profile: a quote from Sir Ernest Shackleton that said: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” There was something more than an attraction to danger that attracted the man; Skiles was keen to reveal important environmental truths about the planet. During his lifetime he continually battled against scientists and government officials who ignored his warnings about water movement through the karst rock of an underground aquifer in Florida that would lead to unchecked pumping and depletion of groundwater.
Continuing the legacy of Wes Skiles
Drawn to the Deep offers interviews with those nearest and dearest to Skiles, relating the plethora of environmental abuses he sought to fight. Skiles believed that there were few things as beautiful as the world beneath sea level, and he sought to encourage others to partake in a ‘hobby’ that opened many doors to the truth of environmental degradation. He also understood that in order to take on powerful institutions, first-hand experience was necessary, both to obtain evidence of the effect of human meddling in seas and oceans, and to become enraptured enough by diving to understand these vast bodies of water that are worth fighting for.
Are you up to the challenge?
Drawn to the Deep will hopefully encourage new and seasoned divers to hone their abilities so they can enjoy deeper dives – the kind that will enable them to make the discoveries that Skiles did. If you are inspired by the book and you wish to be a Technical Diver, you will need to complete substantial dives as a Technical Support Leader or Support Diver. If you wish to go lead a team of divers, you can opt for courses such as the PADI Assistant Instructor Course, or even the Technical Divemaster Course (which demands 100 minimum logged dives, with 50 dives below 100’). As a professional diver, you will also be expected to keep your knowledge up to date through various specialty, cave, and technical courses.
Before taking your instructor course, make sure you have the essential gear to dive comfortably and safety. Must-have items include your own mask, snorkel, fins, and wetsuit, though special suits and equipment may be required depending on the course you are taking. Building up a set of professional equipment over the years is key because enjoying a dive is very much dependent on your comfort level and on keeping your skin safe against the elements.
It’s one thing to enjoy diving as a leisure pursuit and another thing altogether to be a diving instructor who must watch out for the safety and wellbeing of those you are guiding. Being an adventure diver requires flexibility to changing circumstances, and the mental ability to keep cool in the face of panic. Diving offers the chance to travel and be the first to find caves and other underwater features, but it can also be risky, as Skiles’ death itself sadly proved.
Article kindly submitted by Jen Johnson