“Alive on the Andrea Doria!” & mdash; Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: William H. Garzke, Jr. Chairman, Marine Forensics Panel (SD-7) October, 2007

TITLE OF BOOK – Alive on the Andrea Doria
AUTHOR – Pierette Domenica Simpson
PUBLISHER – Morgan James Publishing: www.morganjamespublishing.com

The collision of the Andrea Doria and Stockholm on the night of 25-26 July 1956 has been the subject of a number of books and film documentaries. However, there has never been a detailed explanation of this tragedy that brings forth the navigational, naval architectural, and human elements in one publication. Mrs. Simpson has done this eloquently in her 2006 book. She has described in detail the greatest sea rescue event during the twentieth century in a very concise and poignant style.

Up until now, Alvin Moscow’s Collision Course was one of the principle sources of information on this tragedy. However, Mr. Moscow was a journalist, who did not seek out expert opinion or assistance from such individuals as Robert Young, a former President of this Society and the American Bureau of Shipping, who was aboard with his family at the time and survived the sinking.

In fact, Bob Young was one of the last persons to leave the sinking ship. In his book Mr. Moscow was very critical of the Italian crew who he claimed sought refuge in lifeboats shortly after the collision.

Mrs. Simpson, being a survivor, has finally told the real story of the pandemonium that occurred after the collision and why. The bow of Stockholm penetrated quite deeply into Andrea Doria and one of the early casualties was the announcing system. Unable to hear the announcement about wearing a life jacket, some passengers left their orange- colored ones in their staterooms or cabins. Many of the crew handling the evacuation gave their grey colored jackets to those passengers without one. Therefore, some of the lifeboats reaching rescue ships had a great preponderance of grey rather than orange.

The author, who is not a naval architect or licensed mariner, also explains in a concise, but authoritative manner the technical reasons of why the vessel sank. To do this she consulted with experienced technical personnel. She even visited the CAORF facility at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to seek answers on why the two ships collided. Unfortunately Andrea Doria was doomed to sink. The vessel was in a very tight port turn exposing her starboard side, double bottom, and keel to the ice-strengthened bow of Stockholm, moving at a speedof 18 knots. With the resulting heel of that turn the center vertical keel was also damaged. This has been verified by divers who have explored the wreck.

Furthermore, the Italian liner was doing 21.85 knots in an effort to turn away from the oncoming Swedish liner. Her forward speed carried the Stockholm some 2.6 nautical miles within Andrea Doria before being released. The resulting twisting and turning caused the rupture of some watertight bulkheads allowing three compartments to flood instead two. This flooding also may have been enhanced by failed rivets as the ship was built during a period where there was a mixture of welding and riveting in ship construction. To make matters worse, the vessel was hit near her forward quarter point, an area of concern for naval architects in the stability analysis of ships.

The author unfortunately was not aware of recent research on Titanic. Reference is made to the infamous 300-foot gash, instead of intermittent rivet failure over six compartments.
The reviewer was truly impressed with the accounts of some survivors and the effects this tragedy had in their lives after the event. Ms. Simpson brought forth some very interesting points about the stigma of experiencing a ship sinking. It is a traumatic event that will affect persons in different ways. The other point is how she described the emotional trauma that some of the people she has written about have experienced since.

The author has made the point that Captain Calamai was victimized as a cause of the collision. It is now known from televised documentaries that Third Officer Carstens-Johannsen aboard Stockholm was a prime individual responsible for this tragedy. His inability to correctly read a radar scope resulted in a collision course with the Italian ship. Captain Calamai tried his best to avoid a collision by turning to port rather than starboard. Radar was a new technology at the time and neither the Italian or Swedish crew were experienced in its use for navigation.

Everyone involved in the investigation of ship tragedies should read this book. As a person interested and somewhat involved in the development of marine forensics analyses, what can be gained from interviews of survivors can be very important in reaching the proper conclusions of a ship casualty.