WHOI  WHOI People  

Jerry Cotter

Ship crew

Jerry Cotter didn’t quite expect a long career with WHOI when he signed on to the Atlantis crew in December of 1957. However, after serving eight years aboard the A-boat in the deck and engine crews and as bosun and second mate, he worked briefly on Gosnold and then for five years aboard Chain.

His longest WHOI assignment was as bosun aboard Knorr, beginning with Voyage #1 in 1970 and lasting through Voyage #146 (well, he did occasionally take a vacation) in 1996, when he retired. Peter Wiebe is among the many scientists Jerry worked with over the years, and Peter describes him as “an incredible asset, always ready to assist in launch and recovery and exhibiting a can-do attitude when problems arose. I never came back from a cruise with him that was not completed successfully.”

Jerry says he was proud to work with a wide variety of expeditions and notes that perhaps the grandest adventure was the Titanic discovery cruise in 1985. Another—involuntary—adventure happened east of Georges Bank about 1 a.m. on November 27, 1977, with the weather coming up. Just as he was ready to signal the winch operator to lift a dredge aboard, the ship took a wicked roll, and Jerry went overboard into 50-degree water. Quick thinking on the deck and on the bridge got two life rings to Jerry and a light on him. After about an hour in the 12- to 15-foot seas, Jerry, the soggy skimobile suit he was wearing, and his waterlogged boots were pulled aboard a Zodiac, thankfully ending a frightening event with only bruises and mild hypothermia.

Originally published: February 1, 2005