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Diving and Dying on the Doria.
on 24 November 2004
She was once the pride of an entire nation. She was a post WW2 Transatlantic Liner with the most beautiful lines that only Italy can produce. Launched in 1951 and completed in 1952, the Andrea Doria went into service in early 1953. She displaced 29,083 tons and measured 656*5 feet x 90*2 feet with a draught of 45*4 feet. There were 10 decks, 11 watertight compartments and accommodation for 1,241 passengers and 575 crew. She was powered by 2 turbine engines capable of generating 50,000 hp and fitted with 2 propellers both of which weighed 16 tons. She was completely fireproof and every last detail was one of supreme luxury. As the flagship of the entire Italian fleet, with her went the hopes and aspirations of her country as it emerged from the turmoil and confusion of those dark years of WW2.
On the evening of 25 July 1956 the Doria (as she will always be affectionately known) was approaching New York just as the Swedish Liner Stockholm was heading in the opposite direction. After a series of errors by the officer of the watch on board the Stockholm, it was almost midnight when the Andrea Doria was rammed by that ship which sliced deep into her starboard side. It was a mortal blow and, in a manner reminiscent of the loss of the Titanic, the point of impact could not have been in a worse place. As the Stockholm backed away a large deep gash was revealed through which the Atlantic Sea was already pouring. The Doria took on an immediate 30 degree list to starboard - a list which would slowly increase until she was finally lost. That inexorable process took over 11 hours and the Andrea Doria sank at 10:09 am 26 July 1956.
Today, the Andrea Doria will feature heavily on any scuba diver's list of top ten shipwrecks of the world. Fortunately for the ship, she rests at a depth of 235 feet (99M). I say "Fortunately" because that depth restricts the number of divers who have the necessary deep diving skills to visit such a wreck. Consequently, much of her collectable brass and other fittings will remain uncollected - simply because there isn't the time at that depth for divers to get to work. Unfortunately for many scuba divers who do insists on visiting this immense and very deep shipwreck, however, they appear intent on looting her contents and in this way this shipwreck continues to claim far too many lives. Some of those who have been lost to this wreck (not all of whom are mentioned in this book) were amongst the most qualified and experienced of scuba divers.
Deep Descent is a story of diving and looting this wreck and of some of those who lost their lives. It is not a story for the faint-hearted diver. It is, however, a cautionary tale for all scuba divers - from all over the world, whether they have any intention of diving this wreck or not. Whilst it is an excellent read, one cannot easily condone the underlying gung-ho attitudes of those involved.