Stories of shipwrecks freak me out -- things that are under water that shouldn't be underwater, miles down sometimes, in all that heavy quiet. Paintings of the dead Ophelia, Shelley Winters in "Night of the Hunter," with hair floating out like seaweed, DiCaprio's character falling, falling into the depths at the end of "Titanic" -- very creepy stuff. Anyway, in addition to all that, the Italian ship's crew is vindicated here, so there's another reason to post about the Andrea Doria. From the Discovery Channel via Lew Rockwell:
In-Depth: Andrea Doria Sinking 50 Years On
Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
July 25, 2006 — It was the most beautiful ship of its time, a floating art gallery, an icon of national pride for Italy.
Now it lies at the bottom of the ocean south of Cape Cod, the site of one of the most extraordinary disasters in seafaring history.
Before its fateful last voyage 50 years ago, the Andrea Doria had already crossed the Atlantic 100 times, plying the Genova-New York route. The ship was 100 nautical miles from New York Harbor, in the waters off Nantucket, when it collided with the 13,000-ton Swedish liner Stockholm and sank on July 26, 1956.
The world watched the major news event on television and a furious debate began over who was at fault. In the end, the public laid blame on Captain Piero Calamai, the Andrea Doria's first master.
"The Italians basically suffered a racial prejudice. The stereotype of the Swedish efficiency won over the image of unreliable Italians," Italian maritime historian Maurizio Eliseo told Discovery News.
A leading authority on the history and construction of ocean liners, Eliseo reveals the untold story behind the sinking in a new book, "Andrea Doria. Cento uno Viaggi" ("Andrea Doria. 101 Voyages").
The book details every aspect of the ship's construction, the dolce vita onboard, the dramatic moment of the collision and the epic rescue operations that followed.
Through never-before-published documents, it also reveals secret agreements and the reason why the Italians were unfairly blamed for the accident.
The Final Voyage
The Andrea Doria set sail from Genova at midday on July 17, 1956, bound for New York Harbor.
The ship made three stops along the way to Cannes, Naples and Gibraltar. It was half-past midnight on July 20 when the Andrea Doria began to cross the Atlantic to make a scheduled July 26, 6 a.m., arrival at Pier 87 in New York.
On board were 1,134 passengers, 572 crew members, 401 tons of cargo (including 1,000 Olivetti typewriters and 500 Necchi sewing machines), 522 pieces of baggage, 1,754 bags of mail and nine cars, including the Norseman, a special prototype car that was a joint project of Chrysler and Ghia. The car was valued at more than $100,000.
The Andrea Doria was under the command of 58-year-old Captain Piero Calamai, a decorated skilled skipper who had spent 39 years at sea. Bound for Gothenburg in Sweden, the Stockholm was commanded by 63-year-old Captain Gunnar Nordenson, a veteran of 46 years at sea.
At the moment of the collision, Nordenson was in his cabin and a young third mate, Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen, was in charge of the bridge.
It all happened in matter of minutes. As the popular song "Arrivederci Roma" was playing in the Andrea Doria's first class saloon, a horrified third officer, Eugenio Giannini, cried out, "She is turning, she is turning, she is coming toward us!"
In a split-second decision, Calamai called: "All left!" At 11:11 p.m. the Stockholm's bow, reinforced for ice-breaking in the North Sea, plunged thirty feet into the Doria's starboard side, ripping into it like a can opener.
Radio communications recorded at the time reveal the crew's sudden distress.
At 11:20 p.m., the Andrea Doria called to all stations: "DISTRESS DISTRESS, JUST COLLIDED WITH ANOTHER SHIP. WE ARE LISTING, IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT LIFEBOATS AT SEA."
Greatest Sea Rescue in History
Incredibly, only 51 people died in the accident — five crew members of the Stockholm and 46 passengers of the Andrea Doria. Among them 43 died instantly when their cabins were obliterated.
In what is considered the greatest sea rescue of history, all the passengers who were alive after the collision were saved, as the Andrea Doria tilted helplessly and cold ocean water flooded into the gash at its side.
More than 1,700 were saved by other ships racing to the scene. To many terrified Andrea Doria passengers, safety was the sight of the fully lighted liner Ile de France that raced through the fog at full speed, reaching the scene an hour after the collision.
"Calamai and his crew worked a heroic and amazing rescue operation," Eliseo told Discovery News. "You have to think of that particular situation — people were woken up in terror, the ship was listing so much that it became impossible to walk, the floor was slippery, and the ocean must have appeared dark and cold. It was also clear to everybody that the pronounced listing made it impossible to lower most of the lifeboats."
It was the heroism of crew members such as the electricians who worked until the last moment in flooded rooms filled with wires, that made the epic rescue possible.
Third Officer Giannini had the idea to use the nets designed to cover the pools at night as a way to get into the lifeboats.
"It worked fine, and it made it easier and quicker for the passengers to get to the lifeboats," Giannini told Discovery News.
Calamai, Giannini and the other 10 crew members remained on the Andrea Doria until the last moment.
"We had to lay down because of the tremendous listing of the ship," recalled Giannini. "Captain Calamai told us to go, that he would have followed us later. We understood he wanted to sink with his ship. We and other crew members in a lifeboat refused to leave without him. At that point, he resigned himself to follow us."
The Andrea Doria sank with all its lights on. Amazingly, the ship remained afloat 11 hours, as opposed to the Titanic, which only took two and a half hours to sink.
All that remained of the great ship was some flotsam in a dark whirlpool.
Sacrificed for the State
As the Stockholm arrived at New York’ s Pier 97 on July 27, a furious debate began over who was at fault.
It was hard to understand how two ships collided in high seas when they had seen each other on radar.
The Italians claimed that the Stockholm veered and pointed straight at them. According to the Swedes, it was the Andrea Doria that cut across the Stockholm’s path.
When the contents of the ship’s black boxes — the sperry course recorders — were examined, it became clear that the Stockholm that made the fatal error, by turning right and ramming into the Andrea Doria.
A commission of inquiry from the Italian Ministry of Marine reached the same conclusion after a year of investigations. A final report stated that the accident was "essentially caused by the dangerous maneuver of Stockholm Third Officer Ernst Carstens-Johannsen."
The document was never released.
The companies that owned the ships, the Italian line and the Swenska Amerika Linye, had settled their liability claims out of court, saving their insurers millions of dollars. If the Swenska Amerika Linye had been found responsible, the company would have had to have faced a $116 million compensation request filed by a third-party attorney.
"This would have certainly meant bankruptcy for the Swedish company. It would have not been good for the Italians," Eliseo said.
Eliseo explained that the Swenska Amerika Linye was the main foreign client of Ansaldo, which was controlled by IRI, Italy's state industrial holding company. IRI also controlled the Italian line, which owned the Andrea Doria.
"It happened that the Swenska Amerika Linye had just commissioned Ansaldo to build the Grispsholm liner. So they preferred to keep the documents under secret and sacrifice Captain Calamai," Eliseo told Discovery News.
While the Stockholm officials were promoted (Nordenson was given the command of the newly built Gripsholm), Calamai was abandoned by his company.
A later investigation by U.S. naval engineer John Carrothers came to the conclusion that Stockholm Third Officer Ernst Carstens-Johannsen caused the crash by misreading his radar, assuming it was on the 15-mile-range scale (further away) when, in reality, the scale was at five miles.
In a study published in 1971 in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Carrothers explained that this was an easy mistake since the scale was not illuminated and there was no variable range indicator. A computer simulator at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy has recently confirmed Carrothers’ study.
From his house in Sweden, Carstens-Johannsen continues to deny any responsibility. "I did not make any mistake," he told the Italian state television channel RAI 1.
On March 10, 1972, Carrothers wrote Calamai about his investigation, saying, "Rest assured, Captain Calamai, there are many of us who would be more than willing to serve under your command at anytime."
Calamai never opened that letter. Destroyed by the burden of fault, he died on April 7, 1972 in Genova. On his deathbed, his last words were: "Are the passengers safe?"
The 'Mount Everest' of Shipwreck Diving
The Andrea Doria now lies in 225 feet of absinthe-green water, about 50 miles south of Nantucket.
U.S. shipwreck diver David Bright described the wreckage as the "Mount Everest of wreck diving." Bright, who had logged over 120 dives to the ship, died of decompression sickness while diving to the wreck on July 8, 2006.
The Doria presents many dangers even to experienced divers because of treacherous currents, sharks, wires and cables hanging like spiderwebs, and the risk of getting lost while entering the wreck.
"The wreck is in very fragile condition," Bright told Discovery News just a few days before his ill-fated dive. Bright was the 15th person to perish while diving to the wreck.
"Over the years, the ship has gone through quite a bit of deterioration and decay," Bright said. "The bridge, the lido desks, all the promenade, some of the upper deck, down toward the foyer, have started to collapse and are lying on the bottom.
"As it stands right now, the Doria is in a very tenuous state, with only her hall being exposed and many areas around starting to crack as well."
In 1993, American diver John Moyer was awarded exclusive rights to the artifacts because of his archaeological documentation of the wreck.