During the aftermath of WWII, the Italian Line decided to focus not only on the transatlantic passenger service, but the burgeoning cruise market. In 1953, the SS Andrea Doria was introduced to much fanfare. The largest Italian ship when launched, the Andrea Doria was the pride of Italy.
Launched with much fanfare, the ship provided modern and futuristic luxury. Equipped with the latest technology, the vessel was poised to serve for decades.
On a routine transatlantic crossing, just off the coast of Nantucket, on a foggy summer evening in 1956, disaster struck. The SS Andrea Doria and the SS Stockholm collided, ultimately causing the Andrea Doria to capsize and sink. Located at 40°29.408′N 69°51.046′W under 160' of water, the SS Andrea Doria has become a scuba diving destination, gaining the distinction of the Mt. Everest of scuba diving.
Luxury Across the Atlantic
Launched during the pinnacle of transatlantic ocean liner service, the Andrea Doria sailed with several other record breaking ships. Largest distinction went to Cunard's RMS Queen Elizabeth and the fastest ship was the SS United States. Deciding to not compete with these other liners, the Andrea Doria instead focused on luxury and accommodations.
Divided into three classes, the services provided to each class were unmatched. Each class had a pool on deck, main dining hall, lounges, library, and other assorted services.
To some historians, the Andrea Doria was the most beautiful ship built to date.
A Crash in the Foggy Night
Equipped with the latest safety features, such as radar, the Andrea Doria was considered one of the safest ships afloat. Also as part of the design, 11 watertight bulkheads divided the ship and the exterior had a double hull in case of collisions.
Nearing the end of its 51st crossing, the SS Andrea Doria was cruising nearly full speed to maintain schedule. Normal fog precautions were taken: watertight doors closed, fog horn sounding, extra watches, and radar turned on. Nearing the lightship in the frequently used shipping channel, a blip showed on the radar map. The SS Stockholm, another liner almost half the size of the Andrea Doria, started sailing from New York to Gothenburg, Sweden and had just entered the fog from clear seas. A misreading of the radar screens led the ships to a collision course. Once the officers on watch realized, the SS Stockholm veered starboard and attempted to stop and the Andrea Doria sped up to outrun the collision.
On July 25, 1956 the ships collided at nearly 90 degrees, and the Stockholms ice-breaking bow crashed into the Andrea Doria, killing 46 people.
The Slow Capsize
Immediately following the crash, the Andrea Doria issued SOS signals alerting of distress and needing assistance.
The passengers were evacuated using only half of the lifeboats, because the others were unusable. Fortunately, the design of the Andrea Doria provided rescuers nearly 12 hours after the crash to allow a complete and full evacuation.
Another unintended success, the sinking of the Andrea Doria has become one of the most well documented sinking of a large vessel, allowing designers to analyze how the ship reacts during a capsize.
Other Design Factors
After the crash, investigation into possible design flaws were extensive. There were 8 lifeboats on each side of the ship, more than enough to carry the 1,241 passengers and 563 crew in an emergency. The lifeboats however could not be launched if the ship listed at more than 15 degrees.
Another feature, watertight compartments divided the ship and continued past A deck. However, similar to the RMS Titanic sinking, the water simply flowed over the bulkheads into the next compartment because the Andrea Doria was listing more than 20 degrees. During the sea trials, the ship developed a tendency to roll from side to side if a force was applied, especially in rough seas.
Although there were extensive legal challenges brought up in the aftermath and multiple countries (Italian, Swedish, and American) conducted investigations, a settlement was made out of court shortly after.
Visit the Andrea Doria Today
Sitting at the bottom of the oceans, over 160 feet deep, the Andrea Doria barely supports scuba divers, earning it the nickname of Mt Everest of the Sea due to its complex and challenging depth and other dangers.