The tale of the Italian liner SS Andrea Doria is unique. She sank on live global television.
Andrea Doria was a beautiful liner, and the flagship of Società di navigazione Italia or Italian Line. She was built in Genoa, Italy, by the Ansaldo Shipyards and launched in 1951. She endured an enormous storm on her maiden voyage and immediately became a very popular passenger liner.
Due to the second World War, Italy had lost about half of its fleet due to attacks or reparations to the Allies. In an effort to show that the nation was recovering and restore national pride, the government commissioned two new ocean liners. These would be the SS Andrea Doria and SS Cristoforo Columbo.
Known as an Italian art showcase at sea, Andrea Doria was exceptionally luxurious. Adorned with paintings, sculptures, bronze statues, painted vases and other various priceless artifacts.
- First Class lounge
In addition to having absolutely lovely interior design, Doria was praised for having perfectly proportioned exterior lines as well. She was indeed beautiful both inside and out.
The story of the sinking of Andrea Doria is a tale of two ships. The other being the Swedish-American SS Stockholm.
Stockholm was smaller and slower than the Italian ship. Andrea Doria had left Italy for New York. Stockholm was leaving New York for Göteborg. Andrea Doria was close to completing her voyage and was approaching Nantucket. Between the two, there was dense fog.
Both ships were equipped with radar, Andrea Doria’s more advanced than the one installed aboard Stockholm. The two ships did see one another on radar. Both ships slightly altered course to avoid the other. Unfortunately, they both altered course to head in the same direction.
Stockholm collided with Andrea Doria amidships Stockholm’s bow cutting some 40 feet into Doria. The Italian liner was fatally wounded, while the Swedish liner, which had hit head on, was not in any serious danger. At the moment of collision, Andrea Doria took on a severe list to starboard. So severe, that the lifeboats on the port side of the ship were at such an angle to be unusable. Captain Piero Calamai of the Andrea Doria immediately knew his ship was doomed. He ordered a radio call for assistance (strangely enough, there was no radio communication between the two ships before collision). The usable lifeboats were uncovered and an evacuation was ordered. Knowing that half of the lifeboats could not be used, Captain Calamai prayed that the radio call would be heard. The lifeboats that could be used swung out from the side of the ship and couldn’t be boarded in regular fashion. As a result, the boats were required to be set into the water empty, and passengers were made to climb down rope ladders.
Indeed, the radio mayday call was heard. Not only did the Stockholm send some of its own boats to assist, but a much larger ship heeded the call and changed course. The French liner Ile de France turned around and rushed full speed to the site of the stricken Italian ship. Other ships also responded, including the Cape Ann, Pvt. William H. Thomas, Edward H. Allen, and the tanker Robert E. Hopkins.
By now, word had gotten to shore. The US Coast Guard prepared to offer assistance. Other ships also answered the call for help. The first to arrive was the French liner.
The passengers were relieved as the fog began to lift and they could see the glorious red and black funnels of their rescuers.
In all, the number of casualties was 56, most died at the site of collision. 51 from Andrea Doria, and five from Stockholm. ( 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 Stockholm. She had been lifted from her bed aboard the Italian ship, onto the bow of Stockholm.)
Eleven hours after the collision, Andrea Doria rolled onto her side and plunged to the bottom.
The aftermath of this disaster saw changes to the operation of ships in fog. This next segment is taken directly from Wikipedia:
“Litigation and determination of fault: 1956–57
Several months of hearings were held 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 until 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 absorbed 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 the 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 Andrea Doria after the collision.
While heavy fog was given as the primary 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:
- Andrea Doria’s officers had not followed proper radar procedures or used the plotting equipment available in the chart room adjacent to the bridge of their ship to plot and then calculate the course, position and speed of the other (approaching) ship. Thus, they failed to realize Stockholm’s speed and course.
- Andrea Doria had not followed the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, in which a ship should turn to right (to starboard) in case of a possible head-on crossing at sea. As Stockholm turned right, Andrea Doria turned left, closing the circle instead of opening it. Beyond a certain point, it became impossible to avoid a collision.
- 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.
- Stockholm and 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, Stockholm had only recently entered the bank and was still acclimating to atmospheric conditions. The officer in charge of 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.
- Andrea Doria’s fuel tanks were half empty and not pumped with seawater ballast 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.
- Also, a watertight door may have been “missing” between bulkheads near the engine room, which was thought to have contributed to Andrea Doria’s problems.
- Stockholm’s navigating officer misread his radar thinking he was on a 15-mile setting when in reality the radar was set for 5 miles. Thus, he thought he was farther from Andrea Doria than he actually was. He also failed to consult his captain as was required by regulation.”
The wreck of the Andrea Doria is disintegrating rapidly. She is tangled in fishing nets. She lays on her side at 40°29.408′N 69°51.046′W.