Los Angeles -- You are never too old nor too young to pursue your passion. What prevents many of us is not our physical agility or mental capacity but our own personal willingness to believe our doubts and doubt our believes. Aside from the physical limitations and mental deficiencies, the ability to do what you want to do comes really down to personal choice and not a predetermined mandate.
It was brought to my attention by a friend and colleague a story that exemplifies this very point. Torrance Parker began his diving career at age 16 during World War II working on a Greek sponge diving boat in the Gulf of Mexico. As the war came to and end he founded Parker Diving Service Inc., a general engineering and commercial diving firm headquartered in the Los Angeles port of entry village of San Pedro. From the outset Parker Diving carved a successful niche in deep sea commercial engineering Since it’s founding, the company performed work in many parts of the United States, Central and South America. Still operating under the Parker name, it is the oldest continuously operating commercial diving company in California.
Parker’s diving work involved the construction and maintenance of most of southern California’s post World War II underwater infrastructures such as sewer, oil, gas, and water transmission pipelines, including nuclear and steam power plants, ship launching ways, piers, wharfs, and other harbor structure foundations.
In 1955, during Southern California’s early offshore oil operations Parker dove on the first floating vessels to help develop oil drilling technology using rotary drilling equipment, then performed diving work to install California’s first deep-water oil production platform in 100 feet of water.
In 1953, the company carried out the first underwater NDT inspections with an Audi gage. In 1962, Parker introduced to the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors the first sub-sea television equipment. In 1968 he introduced the first powered brushing equipment for underwater hull cleaning to those harbors. Parker Diving also provided the first ROV service to the two ports in 1984.
Parker sold PDS in 1985 and continued to work with the company as both a consultant and diver until 1995. After he retired, Parker barnstormed his vintage 1928 “Travel Air” biplane on cross-country flights around the United States.
He is the author of two books 20,000 Jobs Under the Sea – A History of Diving and Underwater Engineering (1997) and 20,000 Divers Under the Sea –A History of the Mediterranean and Western Atlantic Sponge Trades With an Account of Early Deep Diving (2013). In 1999, as part of the research for his second book, Parker surveyed the Gulf of Mexico’s pre-World War II deep-water sponge grounds which had not been worked since 1939. The research also involved diving and took three years to accomplish.
In 2002, Parker helped bring the exhibit “20,000 Jobs Under the Sea” to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro. He is a member of the Los Angeles and Long Beach Society of Port Engineers, Quite Birdmen, and an associate Member of the Early Birds of Aviation. The numerous accolades and awards bestowed on him are the Historical Diving Society U.S.A., E. R. Cross Award, (1997); Historical Diving Society Dr. Art Bachrach Literary Award (1998); California Wreck Diver’s Hall of Fame Award (2000);Association of Diving Contractors International Hall of Fame Award (2006); and the Historical Diving Society Pioneer Diver Award (2012).
You'd think with all this in back of him isn't it time to rest and enjoy your golden years with your six children, nine grandchildren, and six great grandchildren? If time is the barometer of one's personality then Parker's days in the diving bell aren't over yet.
The 85 year old Octogenarian performed a live diving demonstration in a canvas diving suit with brass helmet at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro this past Wednesday, October 23rd followed shortly thereafter with a book signing engagement and reception for his second book 20,000 Divers Under The Sea: A History of the Mediterranean and Western Atlantic Sponge Trades with an Account of Early Deep Diving.
The book presents a deep and thorough account of sponge diving from ancient Greece to its current epicenter in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Parker chronicles the history of sponge diving, an ancient trade for an ancient organism 600 million years old beneficial for humans through time -- from the first sponge trade in the Aegean Sea – to its expansion into the greater Mediterranean area – to the technological change introduced to the Greek sponge fishermen in 1863 with compressed air diving apparatus, and the dangers that deep sea diving presented for those brave enough to take on the challenges before the causes of compressed illness (bends), and the development of decompression were known. Emerging into the twentieth century, Parker connects Greek immigration to America and the establishment of the sponge diving industry in Florida.
Ms. Elisabeth Fotiadou Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles was the honorary host for the event. All proceeds from book sales will go to the Friends of Los Angeles Maritime Museum (LAMM).
And that goes to show you how far you can go if you just listen to your heart and not just solely to your mind. For success isn't what you've gained but what you have gained for others in the pursuit of excellence in your personal endeavors and pursuits.
Torrance Parker America's own Jacues Cousteau.
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