Monday, August 20, 2007

The Andrea Doria

The Eggplant will be going to its beloved Nantucket next week. You may ask, ye of little faith, what Nantucket has to do with Italy. By now you should realize that pretty much everything has to do with Italy. This must be the real meaning of the saying, "all roads lead to Rome." Certainly provides a lot of material for my blog.

The Eggplant, as previously, will be staying at the hostel (the rest of the island being notoriously prohibitive). The hostel, which is on the southern side of the island at Surfside, was formerly a Lifesaving station, and the women's quarters lead to a lookout with a wonderful view of the open ocean. This building has been recreated near Sconset on the Polpis Road as a Museum. As the famed liner Andrea Doria sunk in 1956 in the treacherous waters off Nantucket, the Museum has artifacts of the Doria.

The ship was named after one of the greatest Italian sea captains, the 16th-century Genoese Andrea Doria (Ahn-DREH-ah DOH-ree-ah, Andrea being a man's name in Italy). It was built in the famed Ansaldo shipyard in Genoa, whence it sailed on its maiden voyage in 1953. At this time, problems with its seaworthiness were already noted, as it listed (tilted) 28 degrees when hit by a large wave off Nantucket as it neared New York.

Then, on July 25th, 1956, shortly before midnight, the Doria was struck in heavy fog by the Swedish Stockholm, again off Nantucket. Although equipped with enough lifeboats for every passenger, many of them could not be utilized due to the excessive listing of the ship, which left the lifeboats on one side high in the air.

The Doria was not a tragedy of the proportions of the Titanic due to intervening improvements in communications since the time of the earlier wreck. An outbound French liner, the Ile de France, also turned back when receiving the Doria's SOS, and contributed greatly to rescue efforts.

Of the 1706 passengers, only 46 were not saved, and most of these died because of the initial impact. Responsibility for the disaster was never firmly established, as the two sides settled out of court. It is also believed that the Swedish party had an interest in not advertising the flaws of the Doria as it had commissioned a ship from Ansaldo. To the 46 original victims, one could add 14 scuba divers who perished over the years while trying to explore the wreck, considered because of its depth "the Everest of the sea."

Much has been written in over five decades about the famous collision. See survivor Anthony Grillo's site and also an account included in a PBS program, featuring spectacular pictures of the ship as it sinks.