Today, I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bil A. Phillips, a great friend and a mentor to so many of us in the the Cave Diving community.
The research I write about on this blog would be almost impossible to do without help from lots of wonderful people, and I try to give them a shout of thanks wherever possible. But when it comes to Bil, words simply can’t express the incredible amount of encouragement, support, and guidance he has given us over the years. He taught me to cave dive many years ago, when Trish was doing the work that became the foundation for her PHD. At the time I had no means of paying for the training, but this was, to him, irrelevant. What he cared about was commitment, and passion for one of the most spectacular environments in the natural world. Cave exploration was his life, so even the most exacting safety lesson (and there were many of those) was seamlessly woven into one of Bil’s real-life stories (of which there were many, many, more… )
Our experience of his generosity is hardly unique, and the well oiled machine he created at Speleotech has been the pillar supporting an untold number of research expeditions over the years. And no element of the underwater work ever escaped his good-natured scrutiny because he was as much an explorer of ideas as he was of caves. One trip would barely finish before he was tossing around mischievous plans for the next, and intense conversations about what needed investigation to protect his beloved caves, were as much a part of the diving experience with Bil as anything else.
The world has lost a true explorer, who mapped the Yucatan systems with a rare combination of technical mastery and a spirit for adventure. I hope the Cave Pearl Project stands as a fitting tribute to the effect that man had on our lives.
Bil – we will miss you dearly.