Skiles2 Photographer and cameraman Wes Skiles, who explored, mapped, and filmed caves around the world for three decades, died Wednesday afternoon while on a dive near Palm Beach, Florida. He was 53.

Diving companions found Skiles unconscious on the ocean floor near a reef, shortly after he had signaled to them that he was going to the surface for more film. His companions pulled him to the surface and tried to revive him while rushing him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The cause of his death is unknown. A medical examiner will conduct an autopsy, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Skiles was a long-time contributor to both National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Television, At the time of his death, Skiles had just finished shooting a scientific expedition related to marine life off the Florida coast on an assignment for NGTV. “The shoot had wrapped, but he stayed on with the researchers” to do more shooting, says National Geographic spokesperson Beth Foster.

Skiles also shot the cover story for the current issue of National Geographic, about the dangerous submarine caves of the Bahamas called blue holes.

"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," said National Geographic editor-in-chief Chris Johns in a statement on the publisher’s Web site.

Skiles grew up exploring the caves of northern Florida. On its Web site, National Geographic credits him with developing and refining a technique for using multiple strobes to dramatically light the underwater environment of caves.

He was also the creator, director and cinematographer of the PBS series, 'Water's Journey' and his production company, Karst Productions of High Springs, Florida, directed and filmed all the underwater scenes in a feature film titled 'The Cave'.

He is survived by his wife, Terri, and two children.

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