Teddy was late coming home from the war. Emerging after a long and troubled journey, that included a three month trek through east Asian jungle, Teddy returned to the embrace of his island home. The ocean that had inspired his childhood offered solace after the turmoil of fighting. Keen to immerse himself in this familiar world Teddy bought a boat and started working on and under the water, in construction and salvage. His skills with explosives were soon called upon to help Bermuda settle its war debt.
“It is a little-known fact that Teddy earned, over a five-year period after the war, more foreign exchange for the Government of Bermuda than all international business and tourism combined. He had been contracted by the Treasury to collect as much scrap metal from ships that had been wrecked around Bermuda over the previous decades. The amount of copper, brass and other metals that he raised earned millions for Bermuda” according to former Premier, Dr. David Saul. “A critical contribution to the local economy at a very difficult time.”
Teddy took Bermuda to the world and the world to Bermuda
Teddy never set out to promote Bermuda but his discoveries in the world of ocean exploration caught the attention of a global audience. Author, Peter Benchley once wrote: “Teddy Tucker brought Bermuda to the world and the world to Bermuda.”
After the discovery of the Tucker Cross and associated treasure on the San Pedro in the mid 1950s the international media spotlight turned, not just to the treasure but to this little known island of shipwrecks in the Atlantic. A stream of illustrated magazines published articles about the treasure with photographs extolling the stunning backdrop of beautiful beaches, clear azure sea and a reef teaming with life. It was a perfect advert for the island’s natural assets, a fact not lost on those promoting Bermuda’s Tourism.
The snappily titled Bermuda Trade Development Board Overseas Marketing Department set up an ambitious marketing campaign in New York. 'They’ve gone and moved Bermuda to 45th Street’, adverts announced, as the windows of Abercrombie and Fitch and BOAC (what would become British Airways) were converted to street museums of wreck hunting and treasure discovery. Teddy fronted the campaign headlining events in New York and appearing in advertising shoots back in Bermuda.
The media focus had put a face to the emerging world of underwater exploration and a friendly, accommodating attitude made Teddy the go-to man for those visiting the island to experience scuba diving. Teddy’s dock became a popular dropping off point for actors, dignitaries and a long string of astronauts perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit in the realm of exploration. He was also the first port of call for journalists and scientists visiting the island.
One such journalist was a young Peter Benchley on assignment for National Geographic magazine. Their time on the water spawned a lifelong friendship and when Benchley wrote Jaws, he based Robert Shaw’s sea dog character, Quint on Teddy. And in the film The Deep, Shaw is effectively playing Teddy Tucker. Benchley was keen that the two should meet to help Shaw develop the role. 'The Deep' is set and filmed in Bermuda and the plot is based on the recovery of ampoules of morphine like those Teddy discovered on the wreck of the Constellation. Inadvertently, Teddy had brought some Hollywood glamour to his tiny island.
‘A master storyteller, Teddy’s adventures—far too impossible to be true—were pure fact. Some of these stories would become the basis for his friend and fellow explorer, Peter Benchley’s, novels. Teddy and Peter would disappear to sea for days in search of the unknown and incredible. This pair of men had a similar glint in their eye—a spark, a ribald sense of humor and a driving curiosity.
Teddy liked to say that Bermuda is a permanently anchored research ship within the Sargasso Sea. His knowledge of the reefs and wrecks were unparalleled—a living “Google Ocean” for Bermuda’s waters.’ Photographer, David Doubilet.
As Teddy’s lifelong pursuit for knowledge deepened, archaeologists, biologists and oceanographers started to seek him out. A profound understanding of a remarkable breadth of subjects singled him out as uniquely qualified and an invaluable contributor to a range of projects. Skills and knowledge honed by decades of doing, as well as reading, helped innumerable scientific endeavors achieve their goals. Teddy married an innate appreciation for the natural world with a fisherman’s practicality. A readiness to share his knowledge and assist in anyway built long-standing associations and friendships with many of the worlds leading oceanographic institutions. Associations, that helped raise the profile of Bermuda as a center for ocean research.
To highlight some of this research and to house the trove of artifacts he had accumulated, Teddy, a founding trustee, opened the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, a museum for all visitors to Bermuda to share the thrill of discovery and a center of education for the island's school children.
His wit, stories and knowledge made Teddy a great ambassador for the island, abroad and at home. During her visit to Bermuda in 1994, Queen Elizabeth II and Teddy instantly hit it off. Lost in conversation at the expense of other guests, they shared jokes while her Majesty delighted Teddy with descriptions of the more intricate workings of the royal yacht’s engine room. If only he could have taken her diving.
'His experience from years of research and traveling around the world as a young man, gave him an insight into both the sea and land environment that most people do not experience or appreciate.
He had an excellent memory and a wonderful sense of humor that all ages could appreciate. He never lost his vitality or enthusiasm for what he did and it became infectious.' Wendy Tucker.
His contribution to his island home is summed up in a comment left by a member of the Bermudian public as news of his passing broke in the Royal Gazette:
'A quiet contributor to Bermuda's reputation and standing with so many international organizations. No desire for fame, just a healthy curiosity and deep interest in the world around him. We have lost a true man of the soil.'