Graveyard Shift A Haunting Look Inside The 'Andrea Doria,' The Mount Everest Of Wreck Scuba Diving  

John Brassard
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In the 1950s, Italians spoke of the Andrea Doria with great reverence. Today, scuba divers hold the name in similar regard. But what is the Andrea DoriaThe Andrea Doria (named after a Genoese admiral) was a ship built in postwar Italy. The nation poured plenty of pride, intelligence, and beauty into the vessel. Designed with the latest technology, the passenger ship was adorned with opulent woodwork, crystal, and artwork.

On July 26, 1956, the 697-foot-long, 100-ton luxury liner, carrying 1,706 passengers and crew, was nearing the end of a nine-day trip from Genoa, Italy, to New York when it sank after colliding with another ship. More than 40 people died, and the Andrea Doria sank to the bottom of the ocean. But even then, the ship refused to stop being the center of attention.

Right away, scuba divers made their way down to the ship to salvage and explore; reaching the wreckage left a lasting impression on them. In a short time, the Andrea Doria became one of the most sought-after sunken ships in the world. But diving on the Andrea Doria involves considerable risk, and many divers have lost their lives trying to explore the ship, which earned the nickname "the Mount Everest of wreck scuba diving."

Although the vessel's carcass is slowly deteriorating, and its graveyard is one of the world's most dangerous diving locations, the Andrea Doria still attracts divers, all seeking to lay their eyes on, explore, and perhaps bring an artifact back from one of the great sunken ships of the sea.

The 'Andrea Doria' Was An Engineering Marvel

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Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Andrea Doria first sailed in 1953, and news outlets raved about it. The ocean liner's design included the latest technological and engineering advances. The ship, built to maximize speed and reduce drag, was capable of producing and maintaining a speed of 23 knots all the way across the Atlantic.

Builders also made safety a priority. The Andrea Doria's 20 lifeboats could carry more than the total amount of passengers aboard, and the ship boasted automatic sprinklers before such a fire-safety system was required. The vessel even had its own firefighting unit.

The Ship Was A Floating Palace

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Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

After World War II, Italy sought to reform its postwar image. Renowned as a center for culture, art, and beauty for centuries, the nation wanted to re-establish that reputation. Out of this sentiment, the Andrea Doria was born.

The Andrea Doria was designed to be the most opulent cruise liner in the world. Expensive decorations on the walls ranged from mirrors to murals. Even third-class cabin areas had their own recreational zones, swimming pool, and dining room. Second-class cabins and above had private showers and bathrooms, while the most expensive cabins consisted of four-room suites designed by elite Italian artists. The Andrea Doria even offered air conditioning in all of its classes.

The Ocean Liner Struck Another Cruise Ship In Heavy Fog

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In the summer of 1956, the Andrea Doria set off across the Atlantic with Captain Piero Calamai at the helm. A humble, introverted man, Calamai was a decorated war hero admired by those who served under him.

On July 26, the ship sailed into dense fog. The radar operator let Calamai know another vessel was in their path - a very common occurrence at sea. The crew took appropriate measures, but due to an unfortunate series of circumstances historians still argue over today, the Andrea Doria collided with another boat, a cruise ship called the Stockholm.

A Massive Rescue Effort Saved 1,660 Passengers And Crew

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Photo: Associated Press/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

When the Stockholm's bow penetrated deep into the side of the Andrea Doria, some passengers felt the ship lurch or heard the sharp sound of the impact. Furniture and objects were overturned and dashed to the floor. Most people were okay, but others were not as lucky. Forty-six people died aboard the Andrea Doria, but the crew kept survivors relatively calm and organized.

In spite of the damage to the ship, the Andrea Doria took 11 hours to sink. Even though a good portion of the lifeboats were damaged, survivors had plenty of time to receive help. Thanks to a monumental rescue effort, 1,660 people were safely evacuated from the vessel.