SS Andrea Doria

Italian luxury liner lost in a collision in 1956 off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
by Matthew Anderson


Year Built

1951

Year Sank

1956

Depth

160 ft (48.8 m)

Difficulty Level

Advanced


SS Andrea Doria

Wreck Location

The Andrea Doria lies off Nantucket Island in Massachusetts near the Nantucket Lightship. She is in 160 feet of water with strong currents and low visibility. Being a famous luxury liner, she is a popular dive site for recreational divers, but a very challenging one nonetheless. The wreck is hard to explore due to low visibility and its depth and has claimed the lives of many divers since it sank in 1956. The Andrea Doria also lies in a busy shipping lane for vessels going to and from New York City and other northeastern ports in the United States.

~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude:   40° 29' 30.0012" N      Longitude:   -69° 50' 60" W

Description

The Andrea Doria was built in 1951 by Ansaldo Shipyards in Genoa Italy for the Italia de Navigazione S.p.A. better known as the Italian Line. She was named after the fifteenth century Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria. A statue of the admiral was erected in Andrea Doria's first class. Her sister ship was the Cristoforo Colombo. She was placed on the Genoa to New York City run and embarked on her maiden voyage in 1953. Andrea Doria and Cristoforo Colombo embodied the slowly rebuilding pride of Italy, which still lay mostly war torn and financially distressed from the second World War. Andrea Doria featured three swimming pools for all three of her classes and extremely lavish decor and interiors for her first class passenger. Andrea Doria was also a popular means of Italian emigration to the United States. Performance-wise, Andrea Doria had stability problems. She had a tendency to list badly when her fuel tanks were near empty and had listed hard on her maiden voyage when struck by a large wave near Nantucket. She was also smaller and slower than the biggest liners of her day. Never the less, Andrea Doria soon established herself to be among one of the most popular liners afloat to the travelling public and became a cultural icon of Italy.



On July 17, 1956, Andrea Doria left port in Genoa, Italy under command of Captain Pierro Calamai. A priceless prototype Chrysler Norseman concept vehicle was loaded into her cargo hold. It was the only vehicle of its kind. Andrea Doria made three stops in Cannes, France, Naples, Italy and Gibraltar before beginning her long voyage to New York City. On July 26, 1956, the Andrea Doria became shrouded in thick fog off the coast of Nantucket Island, less than a day away from New York City. Coming in the opposite direction was the Swedish American Line ocean liner Stockholm enroute from New York City to Gothenburg, Sweden. Stockholm was a ship designed for normal operation rather than luxury and size. She had a reinforced bow able to cut cleanly through ice packs. The two ships came across each other on radar. The captains of both vessels miscalculated each others' movements. This lead to the Andrea Doria cutting across the bow of the Stockholm. The two ships collided violently, the bow of the Stockholm, piercing the Andrea Doria's side and opening up a giant hole. This destroyed several cabins aboard the Andrea Doria and killed 51 passengers. 3 crewmembers were killed aboard the Stockholm. The bow of the Stockholm was ripped off and remained stuck inside the Andrea Doria. The Andrea Doria's keel had been sliced into and her starboard fuel tank ripped open. Water immediately poured in to the fuel tank and the ship lost power, being stuck at a 20 degree list. Emergency lights thankfully turned on.

Passengers struggled up the tilted vessel to arrive on the top deck. The crew immediately started filling and launching the starboard lifeboats. However, the crew soon realized the Andrea Doria's port lifeboats could not be launched due to the severe tilt of the ship. This left half the passengers stuck aboard the Andrea Doria. In the meantime, Stockholm began taking aboard the survivors of the Andrea Doria. Thankfully, the American freighter Cape Anne arrived at the scene and started helping to rescue further survivors. Further relief came when the French liner Ile De France arrived and took aboard the remaining people aboard the Andrea Doria. The survivors of the Andrea Doria looked on along with the passengers and crew of the Cape AnneIle De France and Stockholm as the Andrea Doria slowly rolled over onto her starboard side and sank bow first over the next 11 hours. In the end, well over 1,000 people were safely brought to New York. Stockholm was repaired and is still sailing as a cruise ship to this day. Lloyd's of London only paid the Italia Line the worth of Andrea Doria's lifeboats in insurance costs. Italia Line replaced Andrea Doria in 1960 with the giant new liner Leonardo Da Vinci, a new sister ship for the Cristoforo Colombo built on the same plans as the Andrea Doria.



Diving began in 1956 with an expedition launched by American diver John Light. The Andrea Doria looked exactly the way she did the day she sunk with the wreck completely in one piece and nothing out of place or damaged beyond recognition. There was even a single lifeboat floating vertically still attached to the ship by a rope connected to a port side davit. By 1980, the Andrea Doria had been encrusted in local marine life and was rusted badly. Parts of her superstructure had corroded away including the funnel and the bridge, thanks in part to the strong current battering the poor liner. She was also draped in tons of fishing trawler nets. By 2005, the entire superstructure was gone and was now lying in a jumbled pile of debris. The wreck was also making a constant grinding and groaning noise from continuing deterioration. By 2016, the wreck of the Andrea Doria was in terrible shape having mostly corroded and collapsed into herself. Whole areas of the ship are gone forever. As time moves on, the Andrea Doria will corrode worse until she is a crumpled pile of metal on the sea floor. The state of the Chrysler Norseman, which still lies deep in her cargo hold, is unknown.

Footnotes

Andrea Doria is a popular shipwreck for recreational diving and is one of the best recorded shipwrecks in terms of history of decay. She has been documented extensively since July 1956 and continues to be a popular subject among shipwreck fans. She has been visited by famous oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard and explored by famous divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler. Andrea Doria has also been the subject of multiple TV shows and documentaries.




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