HISTORIC FEATS: The Hoover Dam

The modern world didn’t just happen. It was built. Built by men and women who understood the value of hard work and overcoming the impossible to accomplish Historic Feats. Those are our kind of people. To celebrate them and their accomplishments, OXX is taking a closer look at some of the greatest feats of human ingenuity that America has ever seen. 

 

Reclaiming the West

In the sweltering heat of the summer of 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression, some 5,000 to 10,000 laborers descended into the Black Canyon between Arizona and Nevada. These workers came from all walks life and banded together to construct one of the greatest feats of engineering known to man—the Hoover Dam. These men scaled the steep cliffs of the Black Canyon, dangled above the raging Colorado River, and endured the harsh working conditions of one history’s most dangerous job sites. The Hoover Dam was the answer to the United States controlling the wild Colorado River to wield its power for electricity. Together, these men single-handedly tamed the West.

Cement Blocks

Where’d the Water Go? 

When the project was started in 1931, the first task was diverting the river to clear the ground for the dam. Four tunnels with a 56ft diameter were dug—two on the Arizona side, two on the Nevada side—to divert the water. To dig these tunnels, a 10-ton truck mounted with 24 to 30 drills would attack the canyon walls in a rig dubbed the “Jumbo Rig.” Once the drill holes were made, they were packed with dynamite. For every 14ft of the tunnel, one ton of dynamite was used to blast through the rock. When the tunnels were finished in 1932, their combined length was just over 3 miles long.

 

Jumbo Rig

Meet the “High Scalers”

Scaling the canyon walls were workers known as “high scalers.” Dangling some 800 to 1000 feet above the canyon floor, these men would drill into the rock to create a smooth joining surface for the dam’s walls.

High Scalers

A Wild Ride

When it was all said and done, 5 million barrels of cement and 45 million pounds of reinforced steel held back the river—enough cement to pave a road from New York to San Francisco. The water to the hydro turbines was made possible by penstock pipes that were brought to the site in 30 ft diameter sections. The hydroelectric power generated from the dam is enough to power the homes of nearly 8 million people.

Penstock Pipe

Building America is an ongoing feat, and OXX is proud to fuel the men and women who are making it happen. Be on the look-out for more stories of the American worker as OXX celebrates the people who make the modern world possible.