Liner History: Excellent video of the SS Andrea Doria.  The magnificent passenger ship was an ocean liner for the Italian Line (Società di navigazione Italia) home ported in Genoa, Italy, most famous for its sinking in 1956.

Cruise Liner History:  SS ANDREA DORIA


SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner for the Italian Line (Società di navigazione Italia) home ported in Genoa, Italy. Named after the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, the Andrea Doria had a gross tonnage of 29,100 and a capacity of about 1,200 passengers and 500 crew. For a country attempting to rebuild its economy and reputation after World War II, the Andrea Doria was an icon of Italian national pride. Of all Italy’s ships at the time, Andrea Doria was the largest, fastest and supposedly safest. Launched on June 16, 1951, the ship undertook its maiden voyage on January 14, 1953.

On July 25, 1956, approaching the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts bound for New York City, the Andrea Doria collided with the eastward-bound MS Stockholm of the Swedish American Line in what became one of history’s most famous maritime disasters. Struck in the side, the Andrea Doria immediately started to list severely to starboard, which left half of her lifeboats unusable. The consequent shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but improvements in communications and rapid responses by other ships averted a disaster similar in scale to the Titanic disaster of 1912. 1660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived, while 46 people died as a consequence of the collision.   The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning.

The incident and its aftermath were heavily covered by the news media. While the rescue efforts were both successful and commendable, the cause of the collision and the loss of the Andrea Doria afterward generated much interest in the media and many lawsuits. Largely because of an out-of-court settlement agreement between the two shipping companies during hearings immediately after the disaster, no determination of the cause(s) was ever formally published. Although greater blame appeared initially to fall on the Italian liner, more recent discoveries have indicated that a misreading of radar on the Swedish ship may have initiated the collision course, leading to some errors on both ships and resulting in disaster.

The Andrea Doria was the last major transatlantic passenger vessel to sink before aircraft became the preferred method of travel.



Andrea Doria had a length of 212 m (697 feet), a beam of 27 m (90 ft), and a gross tonnage of 29,100. The propulsion system consisted of steam turbines attached to twin screws, enabling the ship to achieve a service speed of convert|23|kn|km/h, with a top speed of convert|26|kn|km/h.

Andrea Doria was not the largest vessel nor the fastest of its day: those distinctions went to the RMS Queen Elizabeth and the SS United States, respectively. Instead, Andrea Doria was designed for luxury by the famous Italian architect, Minoletti.

Since it sailed the southern Atlantic routes, Andrea Doria was the first ship to feature three outdoor swimming pools, one for each class (first, cabin, and tourist).

The ship was capable of accommodating 218 first-class passengers, 320 cabin-class passengers, and 703 tourist-class passengers, and 563 crew on ten decks.

With over $1 million spent on artwork and the decor of the cabins and public rooms, including a life-size statue of Admiral Doria, many consider the ship to have been one of the most beautiful ocean liners ever built.

Safety and seaworthiness

The ship was also considered one of the safest ever built. Equipped with a double hull, Andrea Doria was divided into eleven watertight compartments. Any two of these could be filled with water without endangering the ship’s safety. The Andrea Doria also carried enough lifeboats to accommodate all passengers and crew. Furthermore, the ship was equipped with the latest early warning radar. However, and despite its technological advantages, the ship had serious flaws involving its seaworthiness and safety.

Confirming predictions derived from model testing during the design phase, the ship developed a huge when hit by any significant force. This was especially apparent during its maiden voyage, when Andrea Doria listed twenty-eight degrees after being hit by a large wave off Nantucket. The ship’s tendency to list was accentuated when the fuel tanks were nearly empty, which was usual at the end of a voyage.

This stability issue would become a focus of the investigation after the sinking, as it was a factor in both the capsizing and the crew’s inability to lower the portside lifeboats. The bulkheads of the watertight compartments extended only up to the top of A Deck, and a list greater than 20 degrees allowed water from a flooded watertight compartment to pass over its top into adjacent compartments. In addition, the design parameters allowed the lowering of the lifeboats at a maximum 15-degrees list. Beyond 15 degrees, up to half of the lifeboats could not be deployed.

Construction and maiden voyage

At the end of World War II, Italy had lost half its merchant fleet through wartime destruction and Allied forces’ seeking war reparations. The losses included the SS Rex, a former Blue Riband holder. Furthermore, the country was struggling with a collapsed economy.  To show the world that the country had recovered from the war and to reestablish the nation’s pride, the Italian Line commissioned two new vessels of similar design in the early 1950s. The first was to be named Andrea Doria, after the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. The second vessel, which was launched in 1953, was to be named Cristoforo Colombo after explorer Christopher Columbus.

The Andrea Doria started as Yard No. 918 at Ansaldo Shipyard in Genoa. On February 9, 1950, the ship’s keel was laid on the No. 1 slipway, and on June 16, 1951, the Andrea Doria was launched. During the ceremony, the ship’s hull was blessed by Giuseppe Siri, Cardinal Archbishop of Genoa, and christened by Mrs. Giuseppina Saragat, wife of the former Minister of the Merchant Marine Giuseppe Saragat. However, amid reports of machinery problems during sea trials, the Andrea Doria’s maiden voyage was pushed back from December 14, 1952, to January 14, 1953.

During the ship’s maiden voyage it encountered heavy storms on the final approach to New York and was delayed by minutes. Nevertheless, the Andrea Doria completed its maiden voyage on January 23 and received a welcoming delegation, which included New York Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri. Afterwards, Andrea Doria became one of Italy’s most popular and successful ocean liners as it was always filled to capacity. By mid-1956, it was making its one-hundredth crossing of the Atlantic.

Final voyage of the Andrea Doria

A collision course

On the evening of Wednesday, July 25, 1956, the Andrea Doria, commanded by Captain Piero Calamai, carrying 1,134 passengers and 572 crewmembers, was heading west toward New York. It was the last night out of a transatlantic crossing from Genoa that began on July 17. The ship was expected to dock in New York the next morning.

At the same time, MS Stockholm, a smaller passenger liner of the Swedish American Line, had departed New York about midday, heading east across the North Atlantic Ocean toward Gothenburg, Sweden. The Stockholm was commanded by Captain Harry Gunnar Nordenson, though Third Officer Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen was in command on the bridge at the time. The Stockholm was following its usual course east to Nantucket Lightship, making about 18 knots (33 km/h) with clear skies. Carstens estimated visibility at 6 miles (11 km in terms of nautical miles).

As the Stockholm and the Andrea Doria were approaching each other head-on, in the well-used shipping corridor, the westbound Andrea Doria had been traveling in heavy fog for hours. The captain had reduced speed slightly (from 23 to 21.8 knots), activated the ship’s fog-warning whistle, and had closed the watertight doors, all customary precautions while sailing in such conditions. However, the eastbound Stockholm had yet to enter what was apparently the edge of a fog bank and was apparently unaware of it. (The waters of the North Atlantic south of Nantucket Island are frequently the sites of intermittent fog as the cold Labrador Current encounters the Gulf Stream.)

As the two ships approached each other, at a combined speed of convert|40|kn|km/h, each was aware of the presence of another ship but was guided only by radar; they apparently misinterpreted each others’ courses. There was no radio communication between the two ships.

The original inquiry established that in the critical minutes before the collision, Andrea Doria gradually steered to port (left), attempting a starboard-to-starboard meeting, while the Stockholm turned about 20 degrees to its starboard (right), an action intended to widen the passing distance of a port-to-port meeting. In fact, they were actually steering towards each other — narrowing, rather than widening, the passing distance. Compounded by the extremely thick fog that enveloped the Doria as the ships approached each other, the ships were quite close by the time visual contact had been established. By then, crew realized that they were on a collision course, but despite last-minute maneuvers, they were unable to avoid that collision.

In the last moments before impact, the Stockholm turned hard to the starboard and was in the process of reversing its propellers attempting to stop. The Doria, remaining at its cruising speed of almost convert|22|kn|km/h engaged in a hard turn to port, its Captain hoping to outrun the collision. At approximately 11:10 PM, the two ships collided.

Impact and penetration

When Andrea Doria and the Stockholm collided at almost a 90-degree angle, the Stockholm’s sharply raked ice breaking prow pierced Andrea Doria’s starboard side approximately midway of its length. It penetrated three passenger cabins, numbered 52, 53, and 54 to a depth of nearly 40 feet (12 m), and the keel. The collision smashed many occupied passenger cabins and, at the lower levels, ripped open several of Andrea Doria’s watertight compartments. The gash pierced five fuel tanks on Andrea Doria’s starboard side and filled them with 500 tons of seawater. Meanwhile, air was trapped in the empty tanks on the port side, contributing to a severe, uncorrectable list. The ship’s large fuel tanks were mostly empty at the time of the collision, since the ship was nearing the end of its voyage.

Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Stockholm, immediately after the impact, engines were placed at FULL STOP, and all watertight doors were closed. The ships were intertwined about 30 seconds. As they separated, the smashed bow of the stationary Stockholm was dragged aft along the starboard side of the Doria, which was still moving forward, adding more gashes along the side. The two ships then separated, and the Doria moved away into the heavy fog. Initial radio distress calls were sent out by each ship, and in that manner, they learned each other’s identities. The world soon became aware that two large ocean liners had collided.

This was the SOS sent by the Andrea Doria:


Assessing damage and imminent danger

Immediately after the collision, Andrea Doria began to take on water and started to list severely to starboard. Within minutes, the list was at least 18 degrees. After the ships separated, the Captain quickly brought the engine controls to FULL STOP. Many people believe that one of the watertight doors to the engine room was missing, though this issue was later determined to be moot.  Much more importantly, however, crucial stability was lost by the earlier failure, during routine operations, to ballast the mostly empty fuel tanks as the builders had specified. (Filling the tanks with seawater as the fuel was emptied would have resulted in more costly procedures to refuel when port was reached). Owing to the immediate rush of seawater flooding the starboard tanks, and the fact that the port tanks were empty because the crossing was almost over, the list was greater than would otherwise have been the case. As it increased over the next few minutes, to 20 degrees or more, Captain Calamai realized there was no hope for his ship unless the list could be corrected.

In the engine room, engineers attempted to pump water out of the flooding starboard tanks to no avail. There was only a small amount of remaining fuel, and the intakes to pump seawater into the port tanks were now high out of the water, making that procedure to attempt to level the ship impossible. Progressive loss of generators due to flooding as the water rose in the engine room reduced the ability to pump even more.

On the Stockholm, the entire bow was crushed, including some crew cabins. Initially, the ship was dangerously down by the bow, but emptying the freshwater tanks soon raised the bow to within four inches (102 mm) of normal. A quick survey determined that the major damage did not extend aft beyond the bulkhead between the first and second watertight compartments. Thus, despite being a bit down at the bow, and having its first watertight compartment flooded, the ship was soon determined to be stable and in no imminent danger of sinking.


Eventually, it was determined that forty-six passengers of Andrea Doria were killed in the collision area of their ship, among them Camille Cianfarra, a longtime foreign correspondent for The New York Times.  Five crew members of the Stockholm whose cabins were located in the bow area and were in the impact area of their ship at the time of the collision also perished: three during the collision, and two more later from mortal injuries. The deaths of two Doria passengers were related to the rescue operation. There were hundreds of injuries, some from the collision and some sustained on the listing liner and during the evacuation process.

After the ships had separated, as Stockholm crewmembers were beginning to survey the damage, on the deck of the Stockholm aft of the wrecked bow they discovered 14-year-old Linda Morgan without any major injury. It was soon determined that she had been an Andrea Doria passenger, had miraculously survived the impact, and had been somehow propelled far onto the Stockholm deck. Her half sister Joan, who had been sleeping in Cabin 52 with her on Andrea Doria, had perished, as did her stepfather. Camille Cianfarra had been in an adjacent cabin with her mother, who was seriously injured but survived and had to be extricated. The body of another Doria passenger, a middle-aged woman, was also observed lodged in an inaccessible area of the wreckage of the Stockholm’s bow.

A search went underway for several missing Stockholm crewmen. It was determined that five had perished, and those injured were taken to the ship’s hospital.

On the Andrea Doria, there were serious injuries and passengers trapped in the wreckage of cabins in the impact area and many injuries from falls and so forth from other points around the ship. The lowest decks in the impact area became submerged immediately after the collision, and many of the casualties were members of immigrant families who were presumed to have drowned. A number of injured persons received medical treatment, but more significantly, it soon became clear to those on the bridge that it would be necessary to evacuate the Andrea Doria, a hazardous activity under the best conditions. Due to the list, the evacuation would prove far more difficult than perhaps any shipbuilder had envisioned.

Difficult, successful rescue operations

On Andrea Doria, the decision to abandon ship was made within 30 minutes of impact. A sufficient number of lifeboats for all of the passengers and crew were positioned on each side of the Boat Deck. Procedures called for lowering the lifeboats to be fastened alongside the glass-enclosed Promenade Deck (one deck below), where evacuees could step out windows directly into the boats, which would then be lowered down to the sea.

However, it was soon determined that half of the lifeboats, those on the port side, were unlaunchable due to the severe list, which left them high in the air. To make matters worse, the list also complicated normal lifeboat procedures on the starboard side. Instead of loading lifeboats at the side of the Promenade Deck and then lowering them into the water, it would be necessary to lower the boats empty, and somehow get evacuees down the exterior of the ship to water level to board. This was eventually accomplished through ropes, jacob’s ladders, and a large fishing net. Some passengers panicked and threw children to rescuers below or jumped overboard themselves.

A distress message was relayed to other ships by radio, making it clear that additional lifeboats were urgently needed. While other ships nearby were en route, the captain of the Stockholm, having determined that his ship was not in any imminent danger of sinking, and after being assured of the safety of his mostly sleeping passengers, sent some of his lifeboats to supplement the starboard boats from the Andrea Doria. In the first hours, many survivors transported by lifeboats from both ships were taken aboard the Stockholm.

Unlike the Titanic tragedy 44 years earlier, several other non-passenger ships relatively close by did receive and respond to the call for help. Radio communications included relays from the other ships as the Doria’s batteries had limited range. There was also coordination on land by the United States Coast Guard from a center in New York.

A major turning point in the rescue effort was the decision by Baron Raoul de Beaudean, Captain of the SS Ile de France, a large eastbound French Line passenger liner, which had passed the westbound Andrea Doria many hours earlier, to turn back to assist. The French liner had sufficient capacity to accommodate the many extra passengers, and was fully provisioned, only a day out of New York on its planned eastbound crossing. While Captain de Beaudean steamed through the fog back west to the scene, his crew prepared to launch its lifeboats and receive those to be rescued.

Arriving at the scene less than 3 hours after the collision, as he neared, Captain de Beaudean became concerned about navigating his huge ship safely among the two wounded liners, other responding vessels, lifeboats and possibly even people in the water. Then, just as the Ile de France arrived, the fog lifted, and he was able to position his ship in such a way that the starboard side of the Doria was somewhat sheltered. He ordered all exterior lights of the Ile to be turned on. The sight of the illuminated Ile de France was a great emotional relief to many participants, crews and passengers alike.

The Ile managed to rescue the bulk of the remaining passengers by shuttling its ten lifeboats back and forth to the Andrea Doria, and receiving lifeboat loads from those of the other ships already at the scene (as well as the starboard boats from the Doria). Some passengers on the Ile de France gave up their cabins to be used by the wet and tired survivors. Grateful survivors reported many other acts of kindness.

Assisted also by several smaller ships, which had responded, the Doria was completely evacuated by daybreak. As a result, loss of life was limited to those killed or mortally injured on the two ships during the actual collision and the immediate aftermath. One child, four-year-old Norma Di Sandro, who suffered a head injury when dropped by her father into a waiting lifeboat, did not recover and died later at a Boston hospital. Also, an Andrea Doria passenger, having worked strenuously to help others during the rescue, suffered a fatal heart attack the next day aboard the Stockholm while it was returning to New York.

Shortly after daybreak, the little girl and four seriously-injured Stockholm crewmen were airlifted from that ship at the scene by helicopters sent by the Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force. A number of passengers and some crew were hospitalized upon arrival in New York.

Andrea Doria capsizes and sinks

Once the evacuation was complete, the captain of the Andrea Doria shifted his attention to the possibility of towing it to shallow water. However, it was clear to those watching helplessly at the scene that the stricken ocean liner was continuing to roll on its side.

After all the survivors had been transplanted onto various rescue ships bound for New York, the Doria’s remaining crew began to disembark—forced to abandon the ship. By 9:00 a.m. even Captain Calamai was in a rescue boat. The sinking began at 9:45 a.m. and by 10:00 that morning the Doria was on her side at a right angle to the sea. The Doria fully disappeared from sight at 10:09—almost exactly eleven hours after the collision with the Stockholm took place. []

The starboard side dipped into the ocean and the three swimming pools were seen refilling with water. As the bow slid under, the stern rose slightly, and the propellers and shafts were visible. As the port side slipped below the waves, some of the unused lifeboats ripped free of their davits. It was recorded that Andrea Doria finally sank 11 hours after the collision, at 10:09 AM on July 26.   Spectacular aerial photography of the stricken ocean liner capsizing and sinking won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for Harry A. Trask of the “Boston Traveler” newspaper.

Return to New York; families

Due to the scattering of Andrea Doria passengers and crew among the various rescue vessels, some families were separated during the collision and rescue. It was not clear who was where, and whether or not some persons had survived, until after all the ships with survivors arrived in New York. This included six different vessels, including the heavily damaged Stockholm, which was able to steam back to New York under its own power with a United States Coast Guard escort, but arrived later than the other ships.

During the wait, ABC Radio Network news commentator Edward P. Morgan, based in New York City, broadcast a professional account of the collision, not telling listeners that his 14-year-old daughter had been aboard Andrea Doria and feared dead. He did not know that Linda Morgan, who was soon labeled “the miracle girl,” was alive and aboard the Stockholm. The following night, after learning the good news, his emotional broadcast became one of the more memorable in radio news history.

Among Andrea Doria’s passengers were Hollywood actress Ruth Roman and her four-year-old son. In the 1950 film “Three Secrets”, Roman had portrayed a distraught mother waiting to learn whether or not her child had survived a plane crash. She and her son were separated from each other during the collision and evacuation. Rescued, Roman had to wait to learn her child’s fate which resulted in a media frenzy for photos as she waited at the pier in New York City for her child’s safe arrival aboard one of the rescue ships. Actress Betsy Drake, wife of movie star Cary Grant also escaped from the sinking liner, as did Philadelphia mayor Richardson Dilworth and songwriter Mike Stoller (of the team Leiber and Stoller).

Assisted by the American Red Cross and news photographers, the frantic parents of four-year old Norma Di Sandro learned that their injured daughter had been airlifted from the Stockholm to a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where the previously unidentified little girl had undergone surgery for a fractured skull. They drove all night from New York to Boston, with police escorts provided to their convoy in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. When they arrived, the child was still unconscious and the doctors said all that could be done was wait to see if she woke up. The little girl never regained consciousness, and succumbed to her injuries.

Other families also had their hopes of seeing loved ones again dashed, especially those who were meeting members of several young families immigrating to the United States in hope of new lives.

The sinking produced a footnote in automotive history, as it resulted in the loss of the Chrysler Norseman, an advanced “one-off” prototype car that had been built for Chrysler by Ghia in Italy. The Norseman had been announced as a major attraction of the 1957 auto show circuit. However, it had not been shown to the public prior to the disaster, and was lost, along with other cars in the Doria’s 50-car garage including a Rolls Royce.


Litigation and determination of fault: 1956–57

There were several months of hearings in New York City in the aftermath of the collision. Prominent maritime attorneys represented both the ships’ owners. Dozens of attorneys represented victims and families of victims. Officers of both ship lines had testified, including the officers in charge of each ship at the time of the collision, with more scheduled to appear later when an out-of-court settlement was reached, and the hearings ended abruptly.

Both shipping lines contributed to a settlement fund for the victims. Each line sustained its own damages. For the Swedish-American Line, damages were estimated at $2 million, half for repairs to Stockholm’s bow, and half for lost business during repairs. The Italian Line sustained a loss of Andrea Doria’s full value, estimated to be $30 million.

A U.S. Congressional hearing was also held, and provided some determinations, notably about the lack of ballasting specified by the builders during the fatal voyage and the resulting lack of seaworthiness of the Andrea Doria after the collision.

While heavy fog would be the main reason given as the cause of the accident, and it is not disputed that intermittent and heavy fog are both frequent and challenging conditions for mariners in that part of the ocean, these other factors have been cited:

1. Andrea Doria’s officers had not followed proper radar procedures or used the plotting equipment available in the chartroom adjacent to the bridge of their ship to calculate the position and speed of the other (approaching) ship. Thus, they failed to realize Stockholm’s size, speed, and course.

2. Andrea Doria had not followed the proper “rules of the road” in which a ship should turn to right (to “starboard”) in case of a possible head-on crossing at sea. As the Stockholm turned “right”, Andrea Doria turned “left” (to “port”), closing the circle instead of opening it. Beyond a certain point, it became impossible to avoid a collision.

3. Captain Calamai of “Andrea Doria” was deliberately speeding in heavy fog, an admittedly common practice on passenger liners. The navigation rules required speed to be reduced during periods of limited visibility to a stopping distance within half the distance of visibility. As a practical matter, this would have meant reducing the speed of the ship to virtually zero in the dense fog.

4. The Stockholm and the Andrea Doria were experiencing different weather conditions immediately prior to the collision. The collision occurred in an area of the northern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts where heavy and intermittent fog is common. Although Andrea Doria had been engulfed in the fog for several hours, the Stockholm had only recently entered the bank and was still acclimating to atmospheric conditions. The officer in charge of the Stockholm incorrectly assumed that his inability to see the other vessel was due to conditions other than fog, such as the other ship being a very small fishing vessel or a “blacked-out” warship on maneuvers. He testified that he had no idea it was another passenger liner speeding through fog.

5. The Andrea Doria fuel tanks were half empty and not pumped with seawater ballast in order to stabilize the ship, in accordance with the Italian Line’s procedures. This contributed to the pronounced list following the collision, the inability of the crew to pump water into the port fuel tanks to right the ship, and the inability to use the port lifeboats for the evacuation.

6. There was also perhaps a “missing” watertight door between bulkheads near the engine room, which was thought to have contributed to Andrea Doria’s problems.

Both lines had an incentive to limit the public discussion of Andrea Doria’s structural and stability problems. Stockholm’s owners had another new ship, the Gripsholm, under construction at Ansaldo Shipyard in Italy. Andrea Doria’s designers and engineers had been scheduled to testify, but the hearings were abruptly concluded before their testimony could be heard due to the settlement agreement.

Resulting reforms

The Andrea Doria-Stockholm collision led to several rule changes in the immediate years following the incident to avoid a recurrence. Shipping lines were required to improve training on the use of radar equipment. Also, approaching ships were required to make radio contact with one another. Both ships saw each other on their radar systems and attempted to turn. Unfortunately, one of the radar systems was incorrect and this resulted in the collision.

Later investigations and study

Unanswered questions about the tragedy, and questions of cause and blame, have intrigued observers and haunted survivors for almost 50 years. The fact that the Andrea Doria was speeding in heavy fog and questions about its seaworthiness arose at the time. Captain Calamai never assumed another command. However, largely because of the out-of-court settlement agreement between the two shipping companies ended the fact finding which was taking place in the hearings immediately after the disaster, no resolution of the cause(s) was ever formally accomplished. This has led to continued development of information and a search for greater understanding, aided by newer technologies in over half a century since the disaster.

Recent discoveries using computer animation and newer undersea diving technology and have shed additional light on some aspects.

* Many years later, scientific study of the actions of the two crews indicated a probability that the First Mate on the Stockholm misinterpreted his radar in the minutes prior to the impact. Recent studies and computer simulations carried out by Captain Robert J. Meurn of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and based on the findings of John C. Carrothers suggest Stockholm Third Officer Carstens-Johannsen misinterpreted radar data and badly overestimated the distance between the two ships. The poor design of the radar settings, coupled with unlighted range settings and a darkened bridge, make this scenario likely. Some critics have suggested that a simple and available technology, a small light bulb on the radar set aboard the Stockholm, might have averted the entire disaster. Instead, it is likely that he unintentionally steered the Swedish ship into what became a collision with the Italian liner.

* Studies of the actions of each ship confirm another factor which was long suspected, that once sight contact was established, each ship took evasive actions which only worsened the situation.

* Exploration of  Andrea Doria’s impact area revealed that Stockholm’s bow had ripped a much larger gash in the critical area of the large fuel tanks and watertight compartments of the Italian liner than had been thought in 1956. The question of the “missing” watertight door, although still unanswered, was probably moot: Andrea Doria was doomed immediately after the collision.

Diving on the wreck site

Due to the luxurious appointments and relatively good condition of the wreck, with the top of the wreck lying initially in only 160 feet (50 m) of water, Andrea Doria is a frequent target of treasure divers and is commonly referred to as the “Mount Everest of scuba diving.” The comparison to Mt. Everest originated, after a July 1983 dive on the Doria, by Capt. Alvin Golden, during a CBS News televised interview of the divers, following their return from a dive expedition, to the wreck, aboard the R/V Wahoo.

The day after Andrea Doria sank, divers Peter Gimbel and Joseph Fox managed to locate the wreck of the ship, and published pictures of the wreck in TIME magazine. Gimbel later conducted a number of salvage operations on the ship, including salvaging the First Class Bank Safe in 1981. Despite speculation that passengers had deposited many valuables, the safe, opened on live television in 1984, yielded little other than American silver certificates and Italian bank notes. This disappointing outcome apparently confirmed other speculation that most Andrea Doria passengers, in anticipation of the ship’s scheduled arrival in New York City the following morning, had already retrieved their valuables prior to the collision.

The ship’s bell, often considered the ‘prize’ of a wreck, was retrieved in the late 1980s by a team of divers led by Bill Nagle.  The statue of Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria, for whom the ship was named, was removed from the first-class lounge, being cut off at the ankles to accomplish this. Examples of the ship’s china have long been considered valuable mementos of diving the wreck. However, after years of removal of artifacts by divers, little of value is thought to remain.

As of 2007, years of ocean submersion have taken their toll. The wreck has aged and deteriorated extensively, with the hull now fractured and collapsed. The upper decks have slowly slid off the wreck to the seabed below. As a result of this transformation, a large debris field flows out from the hull of the liner. Once-popular access points frequented by divers, such as Gimbel’s Hole, no longer exist. Divers call the Andrea Doria a “noisy” wreck as it emits various noises due to continual deterioration and the currents’ moving broken metal around inside the hull. However, due to this decay new access areas are constantly opening up for future divers on the ever-changing wreck.


Artifact recovery on the Andrea Doria has not been without additional loss of life. Fifteen scuba divers have lost their lives diving the wreck, and diving conditions at the wreck site are considered very treacherous. Strong currents and heavy sediment that can reduce visibility to zero pose as serious hazards to diving this site. Dr. Robert Ballard, who visited the site in a U.S. Navy submersible in 1995, reported that thick fishing nets draped the hull. An invisible web of thin fishing lines, which can easily snag scuba gear, provides more danger. Furthermore, the wreck is slowly collapsing; the top of the wreck is now at 240 feet (80 m), and many of the passageways have begun to collapse.

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