Photo: Brian Cross
Photo: Brian Cross

Bridge Troll

While out sailing this past Friday with friends I learned of my new favorite San Francisco Bay eccentricity, the troll living underneath the new Bay Bridge. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but trust me, there’s a troll up there! He or she, it’s tough to tell the gender of trolls, is approximately two feet tall, made of steel, and perched atop the southern end of the transverse concrete beam where the eastern cable makes contact with the road deck. The troll cannot be seen by car or from the bike path next to the bridge—you need to be underneath the bridge, on a boat to actually see the bridge troll. Lucky for me, one of my passengers that day was Karin Betts, the Public Relations Officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, AKA, Troll Expert.

Here’s the scoop – the old Bay Bridge had a troll too. A group of construction workers installed, covertly, a troll sculpture fabricated by Bay Area blacksmith, Bill Roan, after repairing the bridge from the damage sustained after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Intended to protect the bridge from future earthquakes, the troll lived on the east span of the Bay Bridge for 24 years. The troll, who was never named, was removed from its perch last year and installed at the Oakland Museum of California, where you can visit bridge troll #1 for yourself. Obviously, the new bridge needed protection in the form of a new troll.

Sporting an ironworker’s mallet and torch, the new troll, commissioned from Michael Bondi Metal Design in Richmond, now guards the new east span of the Bay Bridge. Even from the water, the troll is tough to see. My best recommendation is to strike sail and slowly motor to the east side of the eastern support of the center span, the spot where the cables touch down to their eastern anchor. From the southern side of the bridge, you’ll see a small, dark figure looking south from a large concrete beam. While the troll can be seen with the naked eye, I recommend you bring some binoculars, or a good camera lens.

To our members and charterers: on your next sail out of OCSC, plan a cruise under the new bridge and pay homage to the troll.