Torrance Parker will be missed...

March 30, 2017

Torrance R. Parker (July 1928 - March 2017) was a Founding Director of the Historical Diving Society USA, an Advisory Board Member, recipient of the HDS Pioneer Award, and an inductee of the ADCI Commercial Diving Hall of Fame. He lead an active diving career. Torrance owned a commercial diving business, Parker Diving Service, Inc., in San Pedro, California for nearly forty years, from 1947 to 1985, and worked as a diver for sixty-eight years. During this time, he participated in all aspects of deep diving work, including commercial diving, which refers to construction, salvage, maintenance, repair, and inspection of underwater engineered structures; military diving, including stints as an army diver and army diving trainer; and abalone fishery diving, including work as a sponge diver while still a teenager, when he learned this trade from Greek practitioners in Tarpon Springs, Florida. At the end of the World War II, in order to work in the field of commercial diving, Parker moved to San Pedro, California, attending the Sparling School of Diving and Underwater Welding in nearby Wilmington to learn newly developed underwater construction techniques including welding and burning. In 1947, he went on to found Parker Diving Service, Inc. (initially, Parker Diving Service was incorporated). Like most commercial diving businesses at the time, Parker Diving Service began as a sole owner diving company; at 19, Parker owned the newest diving company on the harbor, and also became the youngest diver in the Pile Drivers and Divers Union Local 2375. In 1948, Parker married Tina Carreon, and they had six children, Kimberly, CynDy, Torrance (III), Timothy, Mellissa, and Dulce. From 1950-1952, during the Korean War, Parker was trained in Army diving methods to work as an instructor and diver at the Army’s diving school in Fort Eustis, Virginia, as well as to provide diving services to their 3rd Port complex. Parker Diving Service is now the oldest continuously operating commercial diving company in California. Parker sold the company in 1985, but continued working as a consultant and diver with Parker Diving Service until 1995. Upon retirement, he authored "20,000 Jobs under the Sea: A History of Diving and Underwater Engineering" (1997). He subsequently developed and built the “20,000 Jobs under the Sea” exhibit for the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro; the exhibit depicts the history of both commercial and fishery diving and includes that of Southern California’s earliest divers. Beginning in 1997, Parker conducted a survey of the Gulf of Mexico’s pre-World War II deep-water sponge grounds unworked since 1939 – a diving project that took three years to accomplish. He then wrote a deep and thorough account of sponge diving from ancient Greece to its current epicenter in Tarpon Springs, Florida, "20,000 Divers under the Sea: A History of the Mediterranean and Western Atlantic Sponge Trades with an Account of Early Deep Diving" (2013). Both books are internationally acclaimed for the detail of their research. Torrance continued to worked closely with the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and the Historical Diving Society USA on historical projects for the remainder of his life.

In 2013, while promoting his second book, he made his last plunge beneath the ocean at the age of 85. He was wearing a vintage canvas diving suit, full brass helmet and big rubber boots in a demonstration aimed at educating people about the history of man’s centuries-old effort to conquer the world beneath the sea. "I always wanted to dive, ever since I was a little kid," he said following the dive. Growing up in Oklahoma it seemed this would be an unlikely dream, however, that was not the case as Torrance figures he's spent seven to eight years of his life underwater.

The contributions that Torrance made to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, Historical Diving Society USA, as well as the Commercial Diving Industry will never be forgotten.