International Diving Hall of Fame names local honorees

Three of Cayman’s dive industry pioneers and innovators will be inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame this year. 

Divetech’s Nancy Easterbrook, Little Cayman’s Pirates Point’s Gladys Howard and the late Dr. James (Jim) Polson, who set up the first hyperbaric chamber for divers in Cayman, are being honored. 

Since she arrived in Grand Cayman two decades ago, Ms. Easterbrook has made numerous notable contributions to the local diving industry. The technical diving pioneer has authored free-diving training manuals and founded “Inner Space,” an annual family reunion of sorts for divers from all over the world. She was also instrumental in bringing the USS Kittiwake to Cayman and turning it into an artificial reef – and one of the most popular diving sites in Grand Cayman. 

Ms. Easterbrook said she never expected to be included among the legends who have been inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, so when she was told that she had been selected as one of three local honorees this year, she said she was humbled. 

“I can’t believe it could be me,” she said. “To be included with the people who are really the ‘who’s who’ in the diving industry over the last decades and decades – it’s a little overwhelming to say the least.”  

Also officially joining international diving’s “who’s who” list this year will be Ms. Howard, owner of Pirate’s Point Resort, considered by many travelers to be an eclectic hidden gem and highly regarded by travel guides. According to Fodor’s, visitors to the resort are likely to “become fast friends” with Ms. Howard, who is described as “effervescent.”  

Ms. Howard has also been recognized for numerous contributions to sustainable tourism and environmental causes. She has been active in the fight against lionfish, an invasive species that devours juvenile fish on local reefs. Ms. Howard has donated her resort’s dive boat for the past several years to a weekly lionfish cull. 

Rounding out this year’s list of local honorees is the late Dr. Polson, who helped set up the first hyperbaric chamber on Grand Cayman in 1971. The chamber provides essential medical care to divers affected by decompression sickness.  

For this contribution, the first purposely sunk vessel in the Cayman Islands was named after him. In 1981, a Japanese cable-laying ship called the Old Anchor was sunk to create an artificial reef. Located off West Bay Dock, the site was named “Doc Polson’s Wreck.”  

Ms. Easterbrook, Ms. Howard and Dr. Polson will be recognized at the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame’s annual induction dinner in October.  

The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame was created in 2000 to honor individuals who have contributed to various aspects of the sport, including science, medical research, equipment development, and art, among others.  

This year’s international inductees are Bill High, Dr. Albert José Jones, Peter Hughes, Wally Muller and Dimitri Rebikoff. Previous honorees from Cayman include Stingray City pioneer Captain Marvin Ebanks and dive operators Don Foster and Stuart Freeman.  

Tourism director Rosa Harris said in a press release that the individuals selected to be local honorees this year “have devoted much of their lives to the diving industry in the Cayman Islands and to ensuring that our magnificent underwater environment is accessible to ever increasing numbers of avid water sports and dive enthusiasts.” 

“Their respective contributions have solidified that the Cayman Islands retain its reputation as one of the best diving locations in the world and for their efforts the destination is extremely grateful,” Ms. Harris said. The annual awards ceremony is held in the Cayman Islands. 

To be included with the people who are really the ‘who’s who’ in the diving industry over the last decades and decades – it’s a little overwhelming to say the least. 

Divetech founder Nancy Easterbrook, who will be inducted later this year into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, checks out a reef.


Ms. Howard


  1. It is always surprising that since these sorts of awards began – to honour those who founded Cayman’s diving industry, the name JERRY WILCOX never seems to have been included in the nominees. His contribution was enormous, and I feel sure it was he who introduced the British Sub-Aqua Club level of qualification for Scuba divers – in his day, one of the highest levels recognised internationally. Anyone else remember Jerry ?

  2. I certainly concur with the remarks of David Wheaton. The history of Cayman Island Divers is quite remarkable and it is rather unfortunately there is nothing of the club’s achievements and history on their website. Gerry came over from Jamaica in the 60s and started a successful business at the old Seaview Hotel where he became popular with tourists wishing to dive. He was an outgoing if rather eccentric person but very modest at the same time and an intrepid raconteur.
    In the early 70s he taught me to dive and asked if we could find 12 persons to form a club and the rest is history. Cayman Islands Divers became affiliated with the British Sub Aqua club which at the time had a membership of 700 clubs. Recognizing the necessity for a decompression chamber the club for the sum of $5000 surveyed the Harbour to enable better mooring. With this and other funds the chamber was commissioned. It was the very first in the entire Caribbean. The project enabled the club to win the coverted Heineki award for being the most progressive British Sub Aqua club, an outstanding achievement.
    Doc Polson was recruited as part of a team of volunteers to man the chamber. People were on call 24 hours a day and a link was established with a medical group in Texas to receive specialist advice on decompression. The chambers has saved many lives and is also used for other medical purposes. It is now manned by John Elliott and his team.
    This is a little known asset of the Cayman Islands and the role of pioneer Willcocks and his Herculean efforts should not only be not forgotten but moreover recognized by the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

  3. I too cannot understand why Gerry Wilcox seems not be honoured. I lived in the Cayman Islands during the mid 1970s. Through Gerry and the club he founded I learnt to dive. It was Gerry who masterminded the Georgetown Harbour survey (which I participated in) to raise the money to purchase the decompression chamber. I was one of those taught to operate it and I remember treating visiting American divers who had got into trouble whilst diving. The chamber was set up later than 1971 – 1975 I think. As well as the harbour survey and decompression chamber other things Gerry set up such as coral growth monitoring, all went towards the award of the Heineki trophy to the Cayman Islands Sun Aqua club. Of course it was indefatigable Gerry who did the work on putting together the presentation for the award assisted in part by myself. I remember Jerry with affection and respect.