The Andrea Doria, an Italian passenger liner, has etched its name in maritime history due to a tragic incident that occurred over half a century ago. This ship, renowned for its luxurious facilities and advanced safety features, met its unfortunate end on July 25-26, 1956, when it collided with the Swedish liner, the Stockholm, off the coast of Nantucket in the Atlantic Ocean. The catastrophe led to the loss of 51 lives — 46 from the Andrea Doria and five from the Stockholm.
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The Andrea Doria: A Symbol of Post-War Resurgence
The SS Andrea Doria was an emblem of the Italian Line. With a length measuring approximately 697 feet (212 meters), the ship had the capacity to accommodate around 1,240 passengers and 560 crew members. The Andrea Doria was not just a ship; it was a floating masterpiece. It embodied the post-war rebirth of the Italian merchant marine and was aptly dubbed a “floating art gallery” for its spectacular array of paintings, tapestries, and surrealist murals.
The ship’s design was tailored for luxury, not speed, and it was the first liner to feature three outdoor swimming pools, one for each class – first, cabin, and tourist. This focus on luxury was a strategic move to attract passengers who favored the sunnier southern route. The ship’s most coveted first-class suites were a testament to Italy’s extraordinary artistic heritage, perfectly blending 1950s modernity with a touch of classic Italian elegance.
Equipped with Advanced Safety Features
The Andrea Doria was not just about luxury and aesthetics; it was also a marvel of maritime safety engineering. The ship was equipped with state-of-the-art safety features, which included 11 watertight compartments and advanced radar technology, a relatively new addition to marine navigation at the time. These safety measures were designed with the intention that the ship would remain afloat even if any two compartments were breached. Furthermore, the lifeboats could still be launched even if the ship listed to 20 degrees. Despite these carefully designed safety measures, however, the Andrea Doria was tragically destined to become the last great lost ship of the transatlantic passenger era.
The Maiden Voyage and Subsequent Journeys
On January 14, 1953, the Andrea Doria embarked on its maiden voyage, sailing from Genoa, Italy, to New York City. The ship quickly gained popularity and made numerous Atlantic crossings. The liner successfully completed 100 transatlantic journeys between 1953 and 1956.
On July 17, 1956, the Andrea Doria embarked on what would become its final voyage, departing from Genoa for a nine-day trip to New York. On board were 1,706 people, including passengers and crew members. The ship was carrying a mix of passengers, from Italian immigrant families to business travelers, vacationers, and even some notable personalities like Hollywood actress Ruth Roman.
The Tragic Collision
As the Andrea Doria sailed south of Nantucket on the evening of July 25, its radar picked up an approaching vessel, the MS Stockholm, some 17 nautical miles away. The Swedish passenger liner, which was en route from New York to Gothenburg, had also detected the Andrea Doria on its radar. Both ships, in an attempt to increase the passing distance, made course adjustments. However, each ship misinterpreted the other’s course. The Andrea Doria was traveling in heavy fog, which the Stockholm would soon encounter, and mistakes were made while interpreting the radar readings. While the Stockholm decided on the conventional port-to-port pass (on the left), the Andrea Doria opted to pass on the starboard (right) side.
At a distance of about two nautical miles apart, the liners finally established visual contact, with the Stockholm continuing to attempt a pass on the port side and the Andrea Doria on starboard. However, it soon became evident that they were heading towards each other. Traveling at a combined speed of around 40 knots, they were unable to make the necessary adjustments to avoid a collision. At approximately 11:10 pm, the Stockholm rammed into the starboard side of the Andrea Doria, opening seven of its 11 decks. Although the Stockholm’s bow was crushed, the ship remained seaworthy. The Andrea Doria, however, had suffered fatal damage.
The Aftermath of the Collision
Following the collision, the Andrea Doria began to list towards starboard, which rendered the lifeboats on the port side inaccessible. While 51 people ultimately lost their lives in the disaster, a higher death toll was averted as several ships came to the Andrea Doria’s aid. Additional lifeboats were provided by the Stockholm and by other ships that responded to the Andrea Doria’s SOS, notably the Ile de France. The last lifeboat vacated the Andrea Doria around 5:30 am on July 26. At 10:09 am, nearly 11 hours after being struck, the Andrea Doria capsized and sank.
A number of factors contributed to the disaster, including heavy fog, high speeds in poor visibility, and incorrect interpretation of radar readings. The collision has been extensively analyzed and studied over the years, and while there were evident mistakes from both ships, most researchers now believe that the Stockholm’s third officer made the critical error of misreading his radar and assuming the Andrea Doria was farther away than it actually was.
The Stockholm and Andrea Doria Today
The Stockholm was repaired following the collision and continued to sail into the early 21st century, undergoing numerous refittings, ownership changes, and renamings. The Andrea Doria, on the other hand, lies at a depth of about 250 feet (76 meters) in the Atlantic Ocean. The shipwreck has become a popular site for divers, despite various hazards such as submerged fishing lines and nets, strong currents, and sharks. It has earned the nickname “The Mount Everest of Wreck Diving” due to the technical skills required to explore it. As of the early 21st century, over 15 divers have lost their lives while exploring the Andrea Doria.
Survivor Narratives: Julia Hansen’s Story
One of the survivors of the Andrea Doria tragedy is Julia Hansen, who was rescued at sea as a young girl. Hansen’s personal account provides a unique perspective on the disaster and offers valuable insights into the experiences of the passengers aboard the doomed ship. Her story serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of the disaster and the resilience of those who survived.
Exploring the Andrea Doria: A Diver’s Perspective
The Andrea Doria wreck site offers a unique opportunity for divers to explore a significant piece of maritime history. However, diving the Andrea Doria is not for the faint-hearted. The wreck lies at a depth of about 250 feet, in an area where underwater conditions can change rapidly. Divers must navigate through fishing nets draped over the hull, contend with strong currents, and deal with the occasional presence of sharks. Despite these challenges, divers who venture this deep are rewarded with an unforgettable experience as they rediscover the once-luxurious liner.
The sinking of the Andrea Doria remains one of the most significant maritime disasters of the 20th century. Despite its advanced safety features and luxurious amenities, the ship’s tragic end serves as a stark reminder of the inherent risks of sea travel. The Andrea Doria’s story, complete with its dramatic collision and subsequent sinking, continues to captivate maritime historians, divers, and the general public alike.
A voyage data recorder’s (VDR) primary job is to save a store of information on the whereabouts, motion, physical condition, command, and control of a vessel before and after an occurrence in a safe and retrievable format.
A voyage data recorder (VDR) and a simplified voyage data recorder are identical (S-VDR). The quantity of information that must be documented differs. Compared to the S-VDR, the VDR requires more data to be captured. It is a private interface used to control the trip data recorder.
The Andrea Doria sank after a collision with the Stockholm. Factors contributing to the collision included heavy fog, high speeds in poor visibility, and incorrect interpretation of radar readings.
Following the collision, the Andrea Doria began to list to starboard, which rendered the lifeboats on the port side inaccessible. The ship eventually capsized and sank nearly 11 hours after the collision.
The maker or a person authorized by the manufacturer must conduct the yearly testing of VDR/S-VDR required by SOLAS rule V/20.