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The Intrepid Diver

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Naming the Bridge =>

Critical to the construction of the Bay Bridge was the ability to secure the underpinnings of the bridge. Master Diver William Reed held the job of underwater inspector. Reed made inspection dives of up to 240 feet with equipment that he designed. Because he worked at such depths, Reed had no light to aid his inspection. He used his hands and fingers instead as a guide. These skills were developed during his twenty–one years of underwater inspection experience.

Reed's duties were hazardous. During one particularly hazardous dive, he straightened a leaning caisson by igniting a dynamite charge to clear an underwater obstruction. On another dive Reed was forced to cut his lifeline, which had become entangled on a cable at the bottom of the Bay. Because of the depths of the dives, Reed was always subject to the "bends" and after every dive was rushed to the on–site decompression chamber.

Because Reed’s job was so hazardous, he was paid the substantial salary of $15,000 per year, plus one dollar per foot per dive, a great deal of money during the height of the Great Depression. This equates to approximately $250,000 in today’s dollars.

Reed information taken from High Steel, Building the Bridges Across San Francisco Bay, pages 16–17. Inflation statistics courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

State Diver Bill Reed

Margaret Monroe Collection
California State Archives
Sacramento, California

Click on a thumbnail to view an enlarged copy of the image, then click on the BACK button to return to this page.

Reed Letter, May 5, 1933.

Reed Letter, May 5, 1933

Department of Public Works 1936
California State Archives
Sacramento, California

Submarine Record, December 15, 1934.

Submarine Record, December 17, 1934.

Submarine Record, December 17, 1934.

Submarine Records

Department of Public Works, 1934
Toll Bridge Division
California State Archives
Sacramento, California

State Diver's Boat, March 9, 1934 Photo.

Bill Reed, State Diver Photo.

State Diver – Mid-Span Photo.

Decompression Chamber Photo.

Diver Photos

Department of Public Works, 1933
Bridge Department
California State Archives
Sacramento, California

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