Beautiful, Elegant and Doomed: The Sinking of the Andrea Doria


The Stockholm slammed into the Andrea Doria like a battering ram in July 1956, killing 51 people. At age 9, Italian-American filmmaker Pierette Simpson was aboard the Doria and lived to tell her story.

The Andrea Doria — an opulent, 697-foot Italian ocean liner that ferried travelers from Genoa to New York — has spent the last 60 years in a watery grave, 240 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

A jewel of its time, Doria featured an array of paintings, tapestries, murals and lavish amenities, including multiple outdoor swimming pools.

She also had 11 watertight compartments, a fleet of lifeboats and radar (a new technology of the time), which made passengers feel at ease.

Doria made 100 transatlantic trips after setting sail in 1953, but tragedy struck on July 25, 1956, as the ship approached high-traffic waters near the East Coast, south of Nantucket, according to Britannica.com.

The ship was named after the fifteenth century Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria.

The Stockholm, a 524-foot Swedish passenger liner — under the watch of third officer Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen — had departed from New York on a voyage to its homeport of Gothenburg, and as night fell, the two ships were headed toward each other from opposite directions.

Each ship used its radar to arrive at different conclusions: While the Swedish liner decided on the standard port-to-port pass (on the left), Doria’s Captain, Piero Calamai, elected to pass on the starboard (right) side.

According to History.com:

The officers didn’t realize they were on a collision course until shortly before 11:10 p.m., when Calamai finally spotted Stockholm’s lights through a thick curtain of fog. “She’s coming right at us!” one Doria officer shouted. With just moments to spare, Calamai ordered a hard left turn in an attempt to outrun the other ship. Carstens, having spotted the Doria, tried to reverse his propellers and slow down. It was too late. Stockholm’s icebreaker bow crashed into Andrea Doria’s starboard side like a battering ram, snapping bulkheads and penetrating some 30 feet into its hull. It remained lodged there for a few seconds, then broke loose, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the Doria.

The Doria’s lifeboats were inaccessible, and panic ensued among its 1,700 passengers as she began to sink. By the morning of July 26, Doria had slipped beneath the waves and vanished.

A painting of the decaying Andrea Doria circa 2005, with her superstructure gone and hull broken after 50 years of submersion in swift North Atlantic currents.

Forty-six passengers from the Doria and five from the Stockholm lost their lives during the crash and chaotic rescue operation.

Italian-American filmmaker Pierette Simpson — who, at age 9, was aboard the Doria that fateful night and survived — produced and wrote an award winning film that chronicles her traumatic experience and the political fallout surrounding the crash.

The experience, and later discovering that her captain, crew and Italian shipbuilders were unjustly maligned for the tragedy, inspired her literary and cinematic works.

Directed by Luca Guardabascio, Andrea Doria: Are the Passengers Saved? is based on Simpson’s book, Alive on the Andrea Doria: The Greatest Sea Rescue in History. The docufilm has won six awards, including “Best feature documentary” from the Salerno International Film Festival.

Click here to learn more about the docufilm, Andrea Doria: Are the Passengers Saved?

LIVE at DPTV studio with filmmaker of Andrea Doria: Are The Passengers Saved?

LIVE NOW: What’s it like to live through one of the most famous shipwrecks in history? Survivor, Novi MI filmmaker Pierette Domenica Simpson tells what drove her to make the first film ever made by a shipwreck survivor.See the Broadcast Premiere of Andrea Doria: Are The Passengers Saved?, award-winning film TOMORROW 9p ET.

Posted by Detroit Public Television on Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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