The Tragedies of Three Ships
By Douglas Kitchener, Gaithersburg MD
What follows is a brief essay that I’ve written concerning the losses of three ships, all of which occurred during the month of July. My interest in the July 1956 collision between the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm, and the subsequent sinking of the Andrea Doria, has also led me down the paths of the fates of several other ships. I’ve been trying to commemorate these losses with brief acknowledgements on my Facebook page, and as a result of tracking them I realized that all of these happened in July – in fact, the Eastwood capsized on July 24th, the day before the Andrea Doria / Stockholm collision (although 41 years earlier, of course). Something in me doesn’t want to let the anniversaries of these incidents go unremembered; maybe it’s because the Titanic is so well known while so many others are relatively obscure (no reflection on the Titanic, of course). At any rate, I hope you find it interesting.
The SS Arandora Star – July 2 1940
On the morning of July 2 1940, the Blue Star Line’s SS Arandora Star was transporting some 1200 German and Italian internees and prisoners of war from Britain to internment camps in St. John’s, Newfoundland, having left Liverpool the day before. She also carried some 375 military guards and crewmen. She was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47 off the northwest coast of Ireland and sunk 35 minutes later. Of the nearly 1600 souls on board, fewer than 600 survived… a loss of some 1000 lives.
The wreck of the Arandora Star now lies at 56° 30′ N / 10° 38′ W – what a beautiful ship she must have been…
The SS Eastland – July 24 1915
On the morning of July 24 1915, the SS Eastland was preparing to depart from Chicago on a pleasure cruise. Her passengers were employees of Western Electric and their families who were going to a company picnic in Michigan City Indiana. The Eastland, designed and built to operate in shallow waters, had no keel and was inherently top-heavy. Prior to that day her instability had been documented in other incidents. That morning, when many of the passengers were gathered on her top deck, she rolled over on her port side and capsized in 20 feet of water with no warning while moored to her berth. It was a cool and misty morning and many other passengers who had gone inside to stay warm were trapped below decks in her hull. Some drowned, and others were crushed by the tumbling of heavy furnishings, including a piano. The ship was loaded to capacity with over 2700 passengers; 844 passengers, many of them young women and children, and four crew members lost their lives that day.
The SS Andrea Doria – July 26 1956
Late in the evening of July 25 1956, the Italian Line’s SS Andrea Doria and the Swedish American Line’s MS Stockholm collided of the coast of Nantucket. The Andrea Doria, carrying over 1700 passengers and crew, was westbound into New York after several days at sea. The Stockholm had left New York that morning and was headed east on the way to Scandinavia. Although the Andrea Doria was in heavy fog, the Stockholm’s mate reported no fog so it may be that the collision occurred at the edge of a fog bank. The Stockholm, moving at about 18 knots, struck the Andrea Doria on the starboard side just under the bridge wing, penetrating an estimated 40 feet, nearly to the centerline of the ship. The Andrea Doria immediately heeled over on her starboard side and her watertight compartments were soon compromised when the seawater began to run over the bulkheads. An SOS was sent quickly and several ships came to the rescue. Most of the Andrea Doria’s more than 1100 passengers were saved in what has been called the greatest sea rescue in history, but tragically, 51 people died. Most of those were Andrea Doria passengers who were killed on or as a result of the impact, as were five Stockholm crewmen who were in their cabins in the bow of their ship. Although the Andrea Doria remained afloat for eleven hours, she continued to take on water and list, gradually rolling over onto her starboard side. Sadly, she slipped below the surface shortly after 10:00 a.m. on the morning of July 26.
* * *
Thank you for reading. If the above has piqued your interest, the author (who is by no means an expert!) welcomes your comments or questions.
Naval Marine Engineer, Phil Sims, has provided the following valuable information in response to Mr. Kitchener’s descriptions:
– A “wik”‘ page with links and references at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Eastland
– Its own little historical group
“Eastland Disaster Historical Society” with a web page at
– Two pictures at http://www.domu.com/chicago/history-map/ss-eastland-disaster
Eastland had a keel – the centerline bottom strake of hull plate – but is what he meant “No bilge keel”? Or “no external keel”? But those motion-damping features do not affect a slow roll.
Arandora Star has
– A “wiki” page with links and references at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Arandora_Star
– WWI history group provides http://ww2today.com/2nd-july-1940-the-arandora-star-torpedoed-and-sunk
– The “Italian Society Northern Ireland” has a page on the ship http://www.italiansocietyni.com/furtherarticlesarandora.php