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Vale Agnes Milowka

   Ag in Jenolan Caves NSW. (K Smith)

Agnes Milowka was a close friend of the Wetmules. She died in a diving accident in Tank Cave, South Australia on February 27th 2011 aged 29 years. At the time she died, she was doing what she loved and did best...laying line in virgin passage and pushing her own limits in a quest to satisfy the burning curiosity to see what was around the next corner. For many people this will be hard to understand. But for true explorers, the feeling of being the first, to be able to lay claim to a small piece of the earth that has never had human eyes upon it is as addictive as any drug. And in this realm, Ag was one of the best.

Ag's exploits in cave exploration are remarkable, especially considering the short time she had put her energies into the field. In just a few short years of exploring, she uncovered more new passage and extraordinary natural wonders than most of us will find in a lifetime in the sport. She began as an accomplished wreck diver, pursuing her interest in maritime archeology before getting bitten by the cave bug.

Ag a spent a year working with Dive Rite in Florida and this is when her cave diving skills really developed. Her daily routine saw her driving to Dive Rite in Lake City, then to Ginnie Springs and finally home to her apartment in Alachua. She dived to the very furthest reaches of Ginnie Springs and quickly caught up with the most serious cave explorers. One of her great achievements was passing a very challenging restriction in Baptizing Spring and laying thousands of feet of new line. On a later trip to the USA in August 2010, with her buddy James Toland, she made history by connecting Baptizing Spring to the Peacock Spring system.

She made friends with many of the famous Florida cave divers. Wes Skiles is said to have seen something of his younger self in Agnes and they collaborated on several projects including filming of the Natural Geographic special on the caves of the Bahamas. Wes helped Agnes get started in her dream to make a career from cave diving, documentary making and exploration. The proposed “Agnes Milowka Project” would have seen Agnes filmed as she visited underwater cave around the world. It is a great tragedy that we will never see this.

Back in Australia at Mt Gambier she made some great discoveries in Tank Cave. At Buchan, in her home state of Victoria, Ag and buddy Jim Arundale explored and revealed over a kilometre of streamway passage in the Elk Cave system, passing 6 horribly tight sumps in the process. Ag visited Cocklebiddy Cave on the Nullarbor and swam almost to the end with ease, surpassing the efforts of most who had gone before. In the cold water of Tiger’s Eye in Tasmania she immediately found the deep going passage where others had failed. She even made her name in Hollywood as a stunt double on the feature film Sanctum.

In a few short years Ag had made her name as a professional diver, conservationist and explorer. We can only wonder what she would have achieved if she had not been taken from us so soon and so tragically.

Agnes, we will always miss you.


Agnes on the set of Sanctum, complete with hair 
extensions and big Ag smile. (R Harris)

Oh, I have shrugged off the noise and calamity of modern day
and floated through the depths on bubble-glistening fins.
Downward I have drifted and joined the ebb and flow of wind-driven currents,
and done a thousand things you would never have dreamed of.
Dipping and swooping deep in the limpid pools of silent seas,
Floating…. Drifting….
I've chased shimmering schools of fish,
laughed through coral-carpeted canyons,
and eased my rubber-covered body through the floorless oceans of blue.
Deeper and deeper into the bone-chilling depths
I've descended to the sand covered bottom of the universe, 
with peaceful reserve, where sunshine nor rain have ever danced.
And…. While with silent questioning mind,
I've slipped through the blue un-trespassed serenity of the heavenly sea,
Raised up my face
and felt the cool embrace of God

From the John Gillespie Magee poem "High Flight", re worded for divers.

See the 60 minutes story about Agnes and Cave Diving here