On July 25th, 1956 the cruise ship SS Andrea Doria was just a few hours out of Manhattan coming in from Italy.
She was considered by many the most beautiful and luxurious cruise ship of that era. She was also unsinkable. They say that about all these ships, yes?
Off Nantucket the SS Stockholm was on its way to Sweden from New York. The ships approached one another in heavy fog. They had radar and saw each other but somehow they both turned the wrong direction. The Andrea Doria ‘s captain realized the mistake and tried to correct but she was hit amidships as the Stockholm’s bow buried herself 30 feet into the side of the cruise ship.
The Stockholm had a reinforced icebreaker bow and though it took quite a beating it was at no risk of sinking. The Andrea Doria was fatally struck and began to roll onto her side. This put the starboard side lifeboats under water and the port side ones couldn’t be lowered. The ship stayed afloat for 11 hours and over a thousand people were rescued. Fortunately, there were plenty of nearby ships to lend assistance but despite rescue efforts 54 people died including Peter Thieriot, and his wife Francis. Peter was the publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle. His son Peter Jr. was on the ship but survived. Their youngest son Cam, was back in San Francisco and I happen to know him.
One passenger on the stricken ship was stunned to find himself in bed with no wall against the open sky and sea. His wife had been next to him but she was just gone. Linda Morgan was a teenager on the Andrea Doria and as her parents fell into the sea she was thrown onto the deck of the Stockholm and for several hours had no idea which ship she was on.
The Stockholm was eventually repaired and returned to the service but the Andrea Doria slipped beneath the waves about 200 miles from New York.
The Andrea Doria kept on killing people, though, thankfully, none lately. Since it sunk, 16 have died as they explored the wreck. A depth of 250 feet is very challenging for SCUBA divers and until modern mixed gasses and better gear were developed you could only spend 10 minutes on the wreck. Fifteen and it’s lights out. The wreck called the Mt. Everest of diving for a reason.
For many the point of diving on this wreck is the treasure they bring back. Most of these divers are very hearty men and a few equally tough women. In daily life these divers are a generally known to be physically very formidable. But the treasures they seek are china tea cups and dishes with the Italia Line company logo.
So the Anrdea Doria is one killer of a china shop. The current is often fierce and once you start dredging in the silt for dishes the visibility drops to zero. Over the years there have been so many dives that it’s slim pickings now. Also much of the ship has collapsed. Once you could swim from room to room but this is not possible today. Me, I’m not going.
Despite the risks many divers have visited the wreck and the total number may be in the thousands so 16 deaths isn’t that many compared to, say the actual Mt. Everest where about 1% die each year trying to summit. On Everest the bodies usually remain on the mountain and there is one section called Rainbow Valley named for the bright clothing that stays with them.
So who was Andrea Doria? I thought it must be the owner’s wife or daughter but no. He was a famous 15th century admiral and eventually the ruler of the Republic of Genoa, then a powerful nation state. He lived an amazing 94 years and most probably knew Columbus.
So Doria gets some sunken cruise ship (it was a nice one, though) and Columbus gets a city in Ohio. What will they name after you?
EASTER EGG: Do not read any further if you are afraid of spiders….
I warned you.
Have you ever heard that tiny insects live on your skin. Not true. The fact is that an animal called the Demondex lives in the follicles of your eyelashes and it’s actually related to the spider. At night these arachnids come out and crawl all over your your face gobbling dead skin and depositing oily residue. Hey, it’s a job. I know what you’re thinking. Not me. Hold up. Yes you.
So next time you are staring into your lover’s eyes take a closer look…closer…too close!