Thrilling Dives to the Andrea Doria in 2009

Deep sea diver, Tom Packer called me recently. I had written e-mails nudging him to share with me the details of his summer dives to the Grande Dame of the Sea.

As usual, Tom was as excited as a teenager getting his first new car—yet he has dived the Doria for 30 years! Time and expenses, couldn’t keep Tom and his other diving friends away from the Doria too long. In fact, they didn’t just take one excursion, but three in one summer. Tom explained in his usual gracious way, “It [3 trips] happened thanks to Joe and his regular crew for providing a spare fuel bladder and working on Gene Holmes’ boat HomeWrecker. They made several other modifications to the boat during the winter months.

The regular crew consisted of Joe Mazranni, Steve Gatto, Pat Rooney, and John Butler. On the first trip, Tom and Steve wanted to dive the bow, but it was extremely challenging due to an unusual currents from stern to bow and from the keel to the superstructure. Although it was a short excursion, a long decompression was pleasantly enhanced by 80° water inhabited by tropical fish: wahoo, mahi-mahi and hundreds of blue fin tuna.

Trip two yielded some memorable finds: artifacts such as cage lights, globe lights and bottles. Although the divers didn’t know their origin, they were quite pleased with these 15 or so pieces of history. Dinner on the dive boat was also exciting thanks to Steve’s amazing catch—a 4 ½ foot long mahi-mahi!

The third trip of the summer took place at the tail end of hurricane Bill. The divers knew something was amiss when they couldn’t even hang on to the dive line, being swirled about by forceful currents. They made the wise decision to leave the scene after only one dive.

Unfortunately, none of the dives to the “Mont Everest of the Deep”, as the treacherous site is called, yielded great photographs or video footage. “There were below average conditions for shooting pictures and video, but it was exciting, just to be back!” Tom and Steve’s last dive to the Doria was in 2006 for the 50th anniversary of the sinking.

Knowing these fervent shipwreck divers personally, I know that the lack of pictures and aborted dives are great excuses for a trip next summer. Tom summarized it with his youthful laugh, “It just fueled the fire for how much more we want to do. In fact, we’re all looking forward to next year. After all, were not getting younger, you know.”

I asked how him what is considered the average age limit, and his only response was, “I’ll know when the time’s up.” I wish my friends Tom and Steve many more safe expeditions in search of treasures from an era gone by.

Joe’s last name is spelled Mazranni, and he’s not the boat owner.  You may want to say he organized the trips on his friend, Gene Holmes’ boat HomeWrecker.  Also, I would suggest leaving out anything about the expenses, but that in addition to the fuel bladder, his regular crew made several other modifications to the boat during the winter months.

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