Gerald Willcocks

Gerald Willcocks

Gerry, as he was known, was an early pioneer in the diving field having arrived in the Cayman Islands around 1965 at which time he established a dive business opposite the old Seaview Hotel on South Church Street. In July 1969 with thirteen enthusiastic residents formed Cayman Islands Divers which was admitted as a branch no 360 of the British Sub Aqua Club.

Gerry, as he was known, was an early pioneer in the diving field having arrived in the Cayman Islands around 1965 at which time he established a dive business opposite the old Seaview Hotel on South Church Street. In July 1969 with thirteen enthusiastic residents formed Cayman Islands Divers which was admitted as a branch no 360 of the British Sub Aqua Club. As the only BSA qualified diver on the island he automatically took over the role as Club Officer thereby being the only person to train other members until they too were properly qualified. By 1973 the club had expanded to 63 members including three instructors and three second class divers. During the time since inception of the club Gerry had actually logged as much as 680 hours underwater with club dives being done at least once a week. However his pipedream had always been to construct a recompression chamber and was encouraged to do so by the Cayman Government. Fund raising activities begun which culminated in $3000 being donated by a local bank on condition that the club surveyed the George Town harbour to increase safely for those yachts and ships using the facility. At a total cost of $8000 the chamber was imported and housed in a building at Doc Polson's clinic on Crewe Road, such construction being supervised by Gerry, an engineer by qualification. By the end of these hectic years Gerry felt the club had achieved so much in such a small time that it might be eligible for the Heinke Trophy awarded by BSAC head office each year. A very impressive report was prepared and lodged which culminated in a proud Gerry collecting the award at the annual general meeting of BSAC in England in March 2004. However Gerry contributed to the industry in several other ways, advising Government and was active in the Chamber of Commerce. He also with the late Bob Soto was a member of the Cayman Islands Conservative Group Committee representing the diving industry. His vast knowledge of the sea and its creatures made him a popular individual with the tourists whom he held spellbound with his stories, at the Seaview Hotel. He was always around to assist novice and expert divers alike and his dive shop continued to flourish for many years as did his support of Cayman Island Divers. However the biggest legacy he left behind was that of the first recompression chamber in the Cayman Islands some 43 years ago, which together with its replacement has saved countless number of lives.
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