Three dive pioneers of the Cayman Islands will soon find their names in the 2015 International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (ISDHF). Gladys Howard, Nancy Easterbrook and the late Dr James “Jimmie” Poulson will be recognised at the induction ceremony this October.
In 1986 Howard had the vision to create a unique dive resort on Little Cayman and became the owner of Pirates Point Resort. Beyond her passion for the dive industry, Howard has been a pioneer for developing sustainable tourism in the Cayman Islands and promoting environmental causes. Known for her efforts to fight against the invasive lionfish species and to move the town dump, in its place she created the National Trust Building that now houses the community visitor centre for Little Cayman. Howard also created the annual Easter Auction, an event that garners approximately CI$50,000 annually.
The funds raised go towards the preservation of land, repairs to the National Trust Building, or printing signs to raise awareness of the indigenous iguanas that reside on Little Cayman. Howard has been awarded many honours, including the Badge of Honour and a National Trust Caymanite Octopus that was hand carved to honour her many environmental and preservation efforts in Little Cayman.
The late Dr Poulson opened the successful medical practice, Cayman Clinic, on Crewe Road. Poulson advanced the crucial medical care for divers by helping set up the first hyperbaric chamber on Grand Cayman, used for the treatment of decompression sickness. Originally the chamber was situated at the George Town Hospital but when the hospital needed the space it was moved behind the Cayman Clinic.
The British Sub-Aqua Club ran it from the early 1970’s until 1996, when it was taken over by John and Ann Elliott. Because of Poulson’s contribution and the many, many free hours he put into helping the volunteers operate the hyperbaric chamber there is a popular dive site on Grand Cayman named after him – “The Doc Poulson”.
The Doc Poulson was the first purpose sunk vessel in the Cayman Islands. It was originally a Japanese cable laying ship and was sunk in Grand Cayman in 1981 to create an artificial reef on Seven Mile Beach. The 70 ft. long wreck sits upright in about 50 to 60 feet of water and is a part of the Islands’ diving history.
Easterbrook started diving in 1973 and instantly developed a passion for the sport. She moved with her two children, Brandee and Walker, to Grand Cayman in 1994 and started Divetech. Easterbrook is consider a pioneer in technical diving, rebreathers and the sport of breath-hold free diving in Cayman, including co-authoring training manuals for students to learn free diving. She is the founder of Inner Space, celebrating its 9th year, which brings together Rebreather divers from around the world to share knowledge and friendship.
Easterbrook has devoted the past 20 years to exploring all that diving has to offer and has championed many causes for environmental awareness in the marine and terrestrial environment. Her latest achievement was an 8-year project to bring the Kittiwake to Cayman as an artificial reef, which came to fruition in 2011 and is now one of the most popular dive sites in the destination.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell stated, “It is quite a privilege to select local honourees to this prestige Hall of Fame. Each year it becomes more and more apparent that the local contribution to dive and watersports has been significant both for the destination and globally. We are proud to recognise these individuals as pioneers, innovators, and inventors, as the best in their field and to place their names alongside other individuals who have been recognised over the years for their outstanding contributions to the dive industry.”
Tourism Director Rosa Harris added, “These individuals 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.”
Founded in 2000 by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism, the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame recognises international and local Cayman pioneers who have made outstanding contributions to the recreational scuba diving industry.