It was a foggy night in the waters off Nantucket, Massachusetts, 60 years ago (July 1956). An Italian luxury liner with 1,700 passengers and crew steamed toward New York Harbor from Genoa, Italy. At 11:10 pm, a Europe-bound liner, the Stockholm, rammed into the Andrea Doria’s starboard side, slicing a 40-foot gash. Sirens and screams pierced the quiet night. It is one of the most famous disasters in maritime history, but it is also one of the greatest sea rescues.
For a country rebuilding after WWII, the Andrea Doria was an icon of Italian national pride. Named after the 16th century Genovese admiral, the Andrea Doria was among the largest, fastest, and supposedly safest on the seas. It was 700’ long with a double hull and other safety features. It was often called “the floating art gallery” because of its impressive collection. On that fateful night, the Andrea Doria was making its 100th transatlantic crossing.
After the Stockholm (at roughly half the size of the Andrea Doria) pierced its side, the Andrea Doria listed severely to the starboard, making half of its lifeboats unusable. But its advanced technical design kept the ship afloat for 11 hours. Seven vessels responded to the SOS calls and saved all but 46 on the Andrea Doria. Five perished on the Stockholm.
Original investigations into the crash placed greater blame on the Italian liner for several reasons, including an unsafe speed in the fog. But subsequent discoveries indicated that a misreading of radar on the Swedish ship initiated the collision course.
Over the years after the Andrea Doria sank 250 feet to the bottom of the ocean, it became a magnet for treasure seekers. But 16 of those scuba divers have died, including one last year, because of the depth, water temperature, and currents. It has earned the Andre Doria the nickname, the “Mount Everest of scuba diving.” Recently, images from the first submersible dive to the ship showed that it had deteriorated more than initially anticipated. Another expedition is planned next year with the goal of creating a comprehensive, 3-D image of the wreck.