Where no one has gone before

Agnes Milowka would have been thirty-seven tomorrow.

Born in Poland in 1981, she wound up with several university degrees, although the one perhaps most pertinent was her 2007 degree in Maritime Archaeology from Flinders University in South Australia. Underwater photography was a specialty, although she might have told you that getting there is more than half the fun. National Geographic once brought her to the Bahamas, where she served as an underwater grip and as a photographer.

Agnes Milowka overlooking a series of caves

Agnes Milowka at cliffside

Agnes Milowka on dry land

Here, she tackles a cave in north Florida:

James Cameron was the executive producer for Sanctum, which opened the first week of February 2011, and which contains this scene:

While exploring the entrance to the new system, Judes (Allison Cratchley) experiences a problem with her air tank hose. She loses use of her air mask forcing Frank (Richard Rosburgh) to buddy breathe. After a few exchanges, Judes panics and tries to keep the mask on, but Frank forces the mask off of her knowing he will not have enough air otherwise to make it back to the team.

Shades of The Cold Equations! But that’s not Cratchley you see drowning: that’s Agnes Milowka, hired by the production company as a stunt diver. Some scenes were filmed near Mount Gambier, in South Australia, and one of the caves along the coast proved to be her undoing:

Agnes Milowka, 29, from Melbourne, failed to return from a dive in Tank Cave, near Mount Gambier, on 27 February.

According to Australian press reports, Milowka entered the 8km-long cave system, one of Australia’s largest and most complex, with a buddy.

She got into difficulty after parting company to explore a tight constriction which necessitated going solo, a common practice amongst cave divers.

Searching divers located her body the next day, in a small space some 600m into the cave system.

“There is no greater feeling in the world,” she had said, “than finding a passage that no one ever in the history of the world has seen before.”

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