Lost SS Andrea Doria Lifeboats Resurface
SUNY Maritime History 102 student discovers historic maritime artifacts.
An incident off Nantucket Island, late at night on July 25, 1956, forever changed maritime laws and maritime education in America.
The collision of the New York City-bound Italian liner SS Andrea Doria with the M/V Stockholm set off a flurry of lawsuits, marine regulation reforms, and marine education upgrades that continues to this day. The collision and sinking cost 42 lives and was the cover story of Life magazine that summer.
The Andrea Doria now rests almost 300 feet beneath the waves. Hundreds of divers have attempted –and fourteen men have died –diving down to retrieve even the smallest of artifacts from this infamous wreck. However, stories persisted that at least one of the largest and most historic components of the ship, a lifeboat that saved some of the passengers that night, was salvaged, but that it has disappeared from history– until a SUNY Maritime Humanities student took up the search.
As a research project for his American Civilization 102 class, SUNY Maritime student, Midshipman Robert Ford, chose to investigate a rumor that this lifeboat might yet exist –in a backyard in suburban New Jersey.
Rob searched the Coast Guard archives, requested logbooks and incident reports, phoned, texted and emailed possible witnesses from all over America (including a college student in Pennsylvania and a waitress in New Orleans).
He got help from his fellow 102 classmates and from a number of deep-water divers who had recently explored the wreck of Andrea Doria. One of his best leads came from George, a long-haul truck driver who, as it turned out, had been the last person to actually have seen the boat.
After more than two months of researching (and within 45 minutes of his research paper deadline) Rob was sent photographic proof that he had actually discovered, not just one, but two of these historic boats. Both were hidden,–in plain sight–on a weeded lot in a small town—1700 miles from where the Doria sank.
One of the recovered lifeboats from the Andrea Doria
Both of the boats have fascinating stories. The smaller boat, with its hand-crank propeller, saved sixteen victims from the sinking liner. The larger one, lifeboat #13, carried the Doria’s second mate and twenty-seven passengers to safety… then it disappeared from all memory. But, one morning, in late July 1981, twenty-five years later–almost to the day–the Doria’s lost lifeboat #13 suddenly re-appeared. Washed onto a beach in New York City. Where was this vessel for all these years? How (and why) did it finally arrive at its destination– exactly twenty five years late?
Midshipmen Ford speaking at the 9th Annual Maritime History Conference
This fall, Midshipman Ford was invited to speak at the 9th Maritime History Conference in Baltimore to share the story of his discovery with museum directors, maritime historians, and authors from all over the United States.
Rob hopes to find the funding to restore the smaller lifeboat and to create a museum exhibit to tell the story of the collision and sinking of the Andrea Doria and how this incident still affects our maritime history, as well as our education and training at SUNY Maritime College.