Most folks appreciate ice-covered mountain tops from afar, content to stay safe and warm at the base, but there is a rare breed, a few intrepid fools whose inner voice commands they must climb, driven by testosterone or ego, simply because it is there. Obsessed with standing on top of the world, they strive to conquer hostile slopes, their reward; simply surviving. As divers we share that spirit of adventure, exploring our own alien and unforgiving environment, although diving is much easier and safer then scaling alpine peaks. But for those with a passion for diving lost ships there is a
summit that beckons, a distant behemoth known to some and explored by few. The Andrea Doria, a once opulent passenger liner, emits her siren call to wreck divers, a deep, dark and dangerous Mount Everest for wreck divers.
The Sinking of Andrea Doria
Launched in 1951 the beautiful Andrea Doria, (named not for a woman, but for a sixteenth century Italian Admiral), was post-war Italy’s chance to regain some of former maritime pride. Constructed at cost of 30 million dollars, the Italia Line then turned the seven-hundred foot leviathan into a trans-Atlantic palace of modern art. Using notable contemporary Italian masters, they fitted all of the common areas with the finest murals, paintings, bronze statuary, hand sculpted mosaics and friezes, adding another estimated 10-28 million dollars to her cost. Three distinct classes, first, second and third, were each provided with their own unique accommodation, dining rooms and lounge’s. Nothing was overlooked for the passenger’s entertainment; Movie Theater, big band orchestras, three swimming pools, a gymnasium and even day care for the kiddies was all provided for. She did her job well, successfully wining and dining thousands of happy passengers, feting them in luxury and earning her name as a premier passenger liner with one-hundred event free Atlantic crossings until tragedy struck at 11:10 PM on July 25, 1956.
That night a thick pea soup fog shrouded the ship and hung heavy across the calm sea. After a grand finale dinner, most of the passengers had gone to bed, serenaded by intermittent bleating of theships foghorn, eager to arrive in New York City the following morning. On the bridge of the Andrea Doria, the ships officers studied a menacing blip on the radar, altered course and peered off into the swirling mist, eyes straining for a sign of the approaching ship. The specter moving towards them was the Stockholm, a small Swedish-American liner, and although they could see the Andrea Doria on their radar, they misinterpreted the distance and the Stockholm incredibly turned onto a collision course. To the officers on the bridge of the Andrea Doria the ghostlike bow of a Stockholm appeared out of thegrey gloom like a wraith. There was no time to maneuver and within seconds the
reinforced bow of the Stockholm, designed cut through ice choked Scandinavian fjords, sliced deeply into the starboard side of the Andrea Doria. Piercing through staterooms, engineering spaces and fuel tanks, the Doria’s forward momentum pivoted the bow of the smaller ship like scythe through her bowels, destroying water tight bulkheads and sealing her fate. At only one third her size, the small Swedish David had struck a mortal blow to the Italian Goliath. When the Stockholm pulled away, the Andrea Doria took on an incredible list, as thousands of tons of frigid water flooded through the cavernous wound. The incredible angle of the ships list rendered half of the ships lifeboats useless and with no power the Doria was dead ship, drifting at the mercy of the tide. In a fantastic rescue effort involving a number of vessels over the next few hours, 1650 passengers and crew were saved, but tragically fifty-two people died, most of them asleep in bed at the moment of the collision.