SS Andrea Doria

From Academic Kids

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SS Andrea Doria of the Italian Line, 1953

The SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner sailing from Genoa, Italy, for the Italian Line. This steamship was named after the famous 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. Andrea Doria, with a gross tonnage of 29,083, and had a capacity of about 1,200 passengers and 500 crew. For a country attempting to rebuild its economy and reputation after World War II, Andrea Doria was an icon of Italian national pride. Of all Italy's ships, Andrea Doria was the largest, fastest and supposedly safest. Launched on June 16, 1951, the ship took its maiden voyage on January 14, 1953.

On July 25, 1956, while sailing off the coast of Nantucket bound for New York City, Andrea Doria collided with the SS Stockholm of the Swedish-American Line in what was to become one of history's most famous maritime disasters. Although most passengers and crew survived, the luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning. Due to the collision, 50% of the Doria's lifeboats were unusable. However, improvements in communications and a good response by other ships averted the massive loss of life suffered in the Titanic tragedy over 40 years earlier.



Andrea Doria, with a length of 697 feet (212 m) and a beam of 90 feet (27 m), had a gross tonnage of 29,100. The propulsion system consisted of steam turbines attached to twin screws, enabling the ship to achieve a service speed of 23 knots. Andrea Doria was not the largest vessel nor the fastest. The distinctions instead went to the RMS Queen Elizabeth and the SS United States respectively. Instead, the Andrea Doria was designed for luxury. Since she sailed the southern Atlantic routes, Andrea Doria was the first ship to feature three outdoor swimming pools, one for each class (first, cabin, and tourist). The ship was capable of accomodating 218 First Class passengers, 320 Cabin Class passengers, and 703 Tourist Class passengers on ten decks. With over $1 million spent on artwork and decor, including a life-size statue of Admiral Doria, many considered it to be one of the most beautiful ocean liners ever.

The ship was also considered one of the safest. Andrea Doria's hull was divided into eleven watertight compartments, whose bulkheads extended from A-Deck down to the double hull. She also carried enough lifeboats, capable of being lowered at a maximum list of twenty degrees, to accomodate every passenger and crew. Furthermore, the ship was equipped with the latest early-warning radar.

Nevertheless, the Andrea Doria had stability issues. During her maiden voyage, it was discovered that the ship gained a huge list whenever she was hit by any significant force such as a large wave. When Andrea Doria was off Nantucket, a large wave caused the ship to list twenty-eight degrees. The cause was due to the fact that her water tanks were empty, which was usual at the end of a voyage. The stability issue was one of the topics of focus during the investigations after the collision.


Construction and maiden voyage

At the end of World War II, Italy had lost half its merchant fleet. The losses included the SS Rex, a former Blue Riband holder. To show the world that the country had recovered from the war and to reestablish the nation's pride, the decision was made in the early 1950s to build two new vessels of similar design. The first was to be named Andrea Doria with the second, to be launched a year later, named Cristoforo Colombo after Christopher Columbus.

The Andrea Doria started as Yard No. 918 at Ansaldo Shipyard in Genoa. On February 9, 1950, the ship's keel was laid on the No. 1 slipway and on June 16, 1951, the Andrea Doria was launched. During the ceremony, the ship's hull was blessed by Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, and christened by Signora Giuseppina Saragat, wife of the former Minister of the Merchant Marine. However, amid reports of machinery problems during sea trials, the Andrea Doria's maiden voyage was pushed back from December 14, 1952, to January 14, 1953.

The ship ran into heavy storms on the final approach to New York and was delayed by minutes. Nevertheless, Andrea Doria completed her maiden voyage on January 23 and received a welcoming delegation which included the Mayor of New York. Afterwards, Andrea Doria became one of Italy's most popular and successful ocean liners.

Collision at sea

On July 25, 1956, Andrea Doria, commanded by Captain Piero Calamai, was heading west toward New York. Meanwhile, the Stockholm was heading east toward Göteborg. The Stockholm was commanded by Captain Gunnar Nordenson, though Third Mate Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen was in command on the bridge at the time.

At 11:10 PM in heavy fog, the Stockholm and the Andrea Doria were approaching each other head-on in a well-used shipping corridor. The original inquiry established that the Andrea Doria attempted to avoid a collision by steering to the left (port), instead of following the nautical tradition of passing on the right (starboard). Compounded by the extremely thick fog, as the ships approached each other, guided only by radar, they apparently misinterpreted each others' course. There was no radio communication between them; by the time visual contact had been established, they were unable to avoid a collision.

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SS Andrea Doria the morning after collision with SS Stockholm in fog off Nantucket Island in Atlantic Ocean, July 26, 1956

When Andrea Doria and Stockholm collided at what was estimated to be very close to a 90-degree angle, the sharp icebreaking prow of Stockholm pierced the starboard side of Doria, penetrating three cabin decks to a depth of nearly 40 feet. The collision smashed occupied passenger cabins on several decks and, at lower levels, ripped open several of Doria's watertight compartments. The ship's large fuel tanks were mostly empty as the ship was nearing the end of its voyage to New York. The gash pierced five fuel tanks on the Doria's starboard side and filled them with 500 tons of seawater while air was trapped in empty tanks on the port side, contributing to an uncorrectable list.

Approximately 45 of the 1,706 passengers and crew of Doria were killed in the collision. Six crew members of the Stockholm who were in the bow impact area also perished in the collision. One 14-year-old child, Linda Morgan, a passenger in Cabin 52 of Doria, was discovered without major injury on the deck of Stockholm aft of the wrecked bow by crew members after the collision. She had miraculously survived the impact and apparently been thrown clear. Her half-sister, who shared the cabin on the Doria with her, perished in the collision.

Immediately after the collision, Doria quickly began to take on water and started to list severely to starboard. Within minutes, the list was at least 18 degrees. As the water rose, it was soon discovered that one of the watertight doors to the engine room was missing. More importantly, however, stability was lost by the failure during routine operations to ballast the mostly empty fuel tanks as the builders had specified. Due to the immediate rush of seawater flooding the starboard tanks, and the fact that the port tanks were empty, an even greater list occurred than would otherwise have been the case. As the list increased over the next few minutes to 20 degrees or more, the captain realized there was no hope for his ship. Meanwhile, the two ships drifted apart in the fog.

Rescue: Ile De France turns back to help

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SS Stockholm heads to New York after collision with SS Andrea Doria, July 26, 1956

On the Andrea Doria, the decision to abandon ship was made within 30 minutes of impact. However, lifeboat operations were difficult since half of the lifeboats were on the port side, which made them unlaunchable due to the severe list. Thus, Doria required assistance in rescuing its passengers. This message was relayed to other ships by radio, and passengers unable to use the lifeboats on the Doria were eventually rescued by Stockholm and other responding ships.

A major turning point in the disaster was the decision by the captain of the SS Ile de France, a larger eastbound French Line ship which had passed the westbound Doria many hours earlier, to turn back to assist. Ile de France managed to rescue the bulk of the remaining passengers by shuttling its 10 lifeboats back and forth to Doria, and had sufficient capacity to accommodate the extra passengers. Some passengers on the Ile de France gave up their cabins to be used by the wet and tired survivors. Several smaller ships also responded. As a result, loss of life was limited to those killed in the actual collision, and one child who suffered a fatal head injury during the loading of lifeboats.

By daylight, everyone had been evacuated from the Doria, and inquiries were made about towing it to shallow water. However, it was clear to those watching helplessly at the scene that the stricken ocean liner was continuing to capsize. The Doria finally capsized and sank 11 hours after the collision, at 10:09 AM on July 26, in an event covered widely by local media. Spectacular aerial photography of the stricken ocean liner capsizing and sinking won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for Harry A. Trask of the Boston Traveler newspaper.

ABC Radio Network news commentator Edward P. Morgan, based in New York City, bravely went broadcast a professional account of the collision, not telling listeners that his 14-year-old daughter was aboard the Andrea Doria and feared dead. He didn't know that Linda Morgan, the "miracle girl", was alive and aboard the heavily damaged Stockholm, which was able to steam back to New York under its own power. After learning the good news, his emotional broadcast became one of the more memorable in radio news history.

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Ruth Roman & son after Andrea Doria rescue

Among the Andrea Doria's passengers were Hollywood actress Ruth Roman and her four-year-old son. In the 1950 film Three Secrets, Roman had portrayed a distraught mother waiting to learn whether or not her child had survived a plane crash. She and her son were separated from each other during the collision and evacuation. Rescued, Roman had to wait to learn her child's fate which resulted in a media frenzy for photos as she waited at the pier in New York City for her child's safe arrival aboard one of the rescue ships.


Litigation and determination of fault: 1956

There were several months of hearings in New York City in the aftermath of the collision. Prominent maritime attorneys represented 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, with more scheduled, when 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 sustained its own damages. For the Swedish-American Line, this was estimated at $2 million, half for repairs to the Stockholm's bow, and half for lost business during repairs. The Italian Line sustained a loss of the full value of the Andrea Doria, estimated to be $30 million.

In the end, heavy fog would be the main reason given as the cause of the accident. However, at the time, these factors were apparent to some observers.

1. The officers of the Andrea Doria had not followed proper radar procedures or used the plotting equipment available in the chartroom adjacent to the bridge of their ship to calculate the position and speed of the other (approaching) ship. Thus, they failed to realize the Stockholm's size, speed, and course.
2. The Andrea Doria had not followed the proper "Rules of the Road" in which a ship should turn to right (to starboard) in case of a possible head-on crossing at sea. As the Stockholm turned right, the Andrea Doria turned left (to port) and there was no way to avoid the collision.
3. The captain of the Andrea Doria was deliberately speeding in heavy fog, an admittedly common practice on passengers liners. The applicable "Rules of the Road" required speed to be reduced to a stopping distance within half the distance of visibility. At a practical level, this would have meant reducing the speed of the ship to virtually zero in the dense fog experienced.
4. The collision occurred in an area of the northern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts where heavy and intermittent fog is common. However, prior to the collision sequence, the Stockholm apparently had not entered the edge of the fog bank which had engulfed the Andrea Doria for several hours. Thus, the officer-in-charge of the Stockholm incorrectly assumed that his inability to see the other vessel was due to conditions other than fog, such as a very small fishing vessel or a blacked-out military ship on maneuvers. He had no idea it was another passenger liner speeding through fog.
5. The stability and seaworthiness of the Andrea Doria was an issue neither ship line wanted to address. The immediate, severe, and uncorrectable list following the collision sequence was obviously a concern, compounded greatly by the fact that the ship remained afloat for many hours and actually had capsized before sinking. There had been stability problems during earlier cruises, and the empty fuel tanks were not ballasted with sea water as specified by the builders, an operating economy. There was also an issue of a "missing" watertight door between bulkheads near the engine room which was thought to have contributed to the problems on the Doria after the collision. The ship's designers and engineers had been scheduled to testify just before the hearings were abruptly concluded due to the out-of-court settlement agreement. Furthermore, the owners of the Stockholm had another new ship being constructed by the same firm which built the Andrea Doria.

Changes to avoid recurrence

In the years after the Andrea Doria-Stockholm collision, many rule changes and technological advancements took place. Radar equipment training was vastly improved, and approaching ships were required to make radio contact with one another. Today, global-positioning satellite (GPS) technology is used to fix a ship's position with extreme accuracy in all weather conditions, unlike dead reckoning of the past. The unused plotting equipment in the chartroom of the Andrea Doria and the early radar equipment on each ship would all be antiques today.

Later investigations and study

The unanswered questions about the tragedy, and questions of cause and blame, have intrigued observers and haunted survivors for almost 50 years. The captain of the Andrea Doria never assumed another command and died a broken man.

Recent discoveries using newer undersea diving technology and computer animation have shed additional light on some aspects.

1. Exploration of Andrea Doria's impact area revealed that at the time of the collision, the bow of the Stockholm had ripped a much larger gash in the critical area of the large fuel tanks and watertight compartments of the Italian liner than had been thought in 1956. The issue of the "missing" watertight door, although still unanswered, was moot: the Doria was doomed immediately after the collision sequence.
2. Recent studies and computer simulations carried out by Captain Robert J. Meurn of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and based on the findings of John C. Carrothers suggest the young third officer in charge of the Stockholm misinterpreted radar data and badly overestimated the distance between the two ships. The poor design of the radar settings, coupled with unlighted range settings and a darkened bridge, make this scenario likely. Much like the Captain of the Andrea Doria, such a possibility of fault is a great burden to this now-retired seaman. Some reviewers have pointed out that a simple and available technology, a small light bulb on the radar set aboard the Stockholm, might have averted the entire tragedy.

Diving on the wreck site

Due to the luxurious appointments and relatively good condition of the wreck, with the top of the wreck lying initially in only 160 feet (50 m) of water, the Andrea Doria is a frequent target of treasure divers and is commonly referred to as the "Mount Everest of scuba diving."

The day after it sank, divers Peter Gimbel and Joseph Fox managed to locate the wreck of the Doria, publishing pictures of the wreck in TIME magazine. Gimbel later conducted a number of salvage operations on the ship, including salvaging the First Class Bank Safe in 1981. Despite speculation that passengers had deposited many valuables, the safe, opened on live television in 1984, yielded little other than American silver certificates and Italian bank notes. This disappointing outcome apparently confirmed other speculation that most Andrea Doria passengers, in anticipation of the ship's scheduled arrival in New York City the following morning, had already retrieved their valuables prior to the collision. The ship's bell was taken in the late 1980s, and the statue of Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria, for whom the ship was named, was removed from the first-class lounge. After years of looting by divers, little of value is thought to remain on the wreck site.

Artifact recovery on the Doria has not been without additional loss of life. Dozens of scuba divers have lost their lives diving the wreck. Just as the weather and sailing environment proved fatal to the Andrea Doria, the diving conditions in this area of the turbulent North Atlantic are also considered very treacherous. Strong currents, heavy sediment that can reduce visibility to zero, and sharks all pose a serious hazard. Dr. Robert Ballard, who visited the site in a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy submersible in 1995, reported that thick fishing nets draped the hull. An invisible web of thin fishing lines, which can easily snag scuba gear, provides more danger. As time passes, the wreck is slowly collapsing; the top of the wreck is now at 190 feet (60 m), and many of the passageways have begun to collapse.


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Memorial wreath placed at Andrea Doria shipwreck site by survivors, July 2002

The bow of the Stockholm was repaired at a cost of $1 million. Today, it sails as a refurbished cruise ship, the M.S. Caribe.

The story of the accident was retold by Alvin Moscow in his book Collision Course: The Story of the Collision Between the 'Andrea Doria' and the 'Stockholm' published in 1959.

A group of survivors remains in contact with each other through a web site run by an Andrea Doria survivor. Some stay in touch through a newsletter, and there have been reunions and memorial services.



  • Moscow, Alvin, (1959) Collision Course Putnam Publishing Group; ISBN 0448120194 (noted updated version published in 1981)
  • Haberstroh, Joe (2003) Fatal Depth: Deep Sea Diving, China Fever and the Wreck of the Andrea Doria The Lyons Press; ISBN 1585744573
  • Goldstein, Richard (2003) Desperate Hours: The Epic Rescue Of The Andrea Doria John Wiley & Sons
  • Mattsson, Algot (1986) Out Of The Fog: The Sinking Of The Andrea Doria (Translated from Swedish by Professor E. Fisher and edited by Gordon W. Paulsen) Cornell Maritime Press; ISBN 0870335456
  • McMurray, Kevin F. (2001) Deep Descent: Adventure And Death Diving The Andrea Doria Pocket Books. ISBN 0743400623
  • Ballard, Robert D. (1997) Lost Liners: From the Titanic to the Andrea Doria the Ocean Floor Reveals It's Greatest Ships Hyperion; ISBN 0786862963;
  • Meurn, Robert J. (1990) Watchstanding Guide for the Merchant Officer Cornell Maritime Press, ISBN 0-87033-409-3
  • Gentile, Gary (1989) Andrea Doria: Dive to an Era Gary Gentile Productions; ISBN 0962145300
  • Kohler, Peter C. (1988) The Lido Fleet Seadragon Press. ISBN 0966305205
  • Hoffer, William (1982) Saved: the Story of the Andrea Doria-The Greatest Sea Rescue in History Simon & Schuster; ISBN 0517364905
  • Carletti, Stefano (1968) Andrea Doria '74 Gherando Casini Ed, Italy
  • Gladstone, Eugene W. (1966) In The Wake Of The Andrea Doria: A Candid Autobiography by Eugene W. Gladstone McClelland and Stewart Limited, Canada.


External link

sv:M/S Andrea Doria


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