Interview With Andrea Doria Survivor Klaus Dorneich Offers A First-Hand Account and Reflections


Last year the German publishing house „Time Bridge“ ( has produced a THREE-CD-AUDIO-BOOK for his series “Wissen” (knowledge) under the title “The Titanic and other Lostliners”. About the fate of 7 famous passenger steamers that were all sunk within the last century. Among them, of course, the ANDREA DORIA who sank after the collision with the Stockholm in 1956. As the only German eyewitness, I had the privilege to cooperate on base of 2 original audio-interviews (from 1956 and 2012). This audio package is now sold in Germany and can also be loaded down from internet. As preparation for CHAPTER 7 (Andrea Doria) an interview was made with me that I would like to share with you now in a condensed way:

Dr Dorneich, you were once the only German survivor on board the sinking Andrea Doria in 1956 – can one compare the “Andrea Doria” with the “Costa Concordia”, another Italian passenger ship that recently sank off the Italian coast in the Mediterranean under similar circumstances ?

Perhaps you will remember that in passed times there already existed movie films about the “Titanic” that sank within hours after a collision, although it is hard to believe! Nevertheless, the mishap of the C.C. that occurred in 2011 has touched me profoundly. Most of all, of course, the fate of so many trapped passengers, but also of the ship´s captain who became the object of harsh criticism. This was not so much the case after the sinking of the “Andrea Doria”. Commodore Piero Calamai at the time was a highly respected Sea captain from a prominent sea-faring family line in Genoa, with many decorations and long years on the bridge of Transatlantic passenger Liners. He too was once criticized but mainly for his information policy after the collision. Apparently, the “bridge people” still believe that they can avoid panic by relaying as little as possible information to the passengers. When on the “Andrea Doria” the final signal (!) came “All people off board”, the reaction of the passengers was literally devastating. Nobody had really thought that could be possible again, especially not at midnight on high Sea!

In New York, the Maritime Court was mainly concerned with the question “who was responsible for the crash”. Later on, 1957 in London, a settlement agreement found the Italians as responsible for 60% and the Swedes for 40% of the resulting damages. This “verdict” of 1957 would probably be totally different today! Because it is known that the Swedes had a relatively young First Officer alone on the bridge who erred at radar and selected a wrong course during that fateful night! When he realized that he was probably on a collision course, he again changed route without consulting his Captain Olsen, but it was already too late and everything then turned real worse. That´s why I think another damage settlement would end possibly differently today ….
The Andrea Doria in turn was probably wrong among other things, i.e. by storing the passenger life vests (orange) only in the cabins. When the emergency became evident, I and many others were already on deck and had no chance any more to rush down to their cabins to fetch things! Of course, my first thought was “And now?” Perhaps it will amuse you but I found myself a wooden deckchair and thought this could be practical at floating if we all had to jump into the water! Incidentally, the COLOR OF LIFE VESTS later played a peculiar role! Contrary to the passengers (orange), the “Crew” had gray vests! When the Swedes later saw that the first arriving life boats had only people with gray vests on, the Captain initially refused acceptance to come on board the Stockholm and is said to have ordered “Passengers first – go back and fetch them!” instead. But the “Crew” did not mind much – they just waited patiently in their boats until they were allowed to come on board eventually. Thus you can see how important life vests are – storing them in cabins only might be the easiest, but certainly not the most effective way …

Yes, unfortunately that´s true! But one has to differentiate between regular sea professionals (sailors) and serving personnel. The latter were mostly service people – waiters, cabin stewards, kitchen personnel etc., among them many women. Obviously, this group of people has not the same ethic principles that regular sailors and ship officers have. These, “the real crew”, have undoubtedly done a tremendous job at saving people trapped in their cabins, lowering the Doria boats and rowing people to safety – although the ship had already lost half of its live boats because it listed too heavily and too soon to lower them – all this under the danger of life for themselves and the passengers!

As I already mentioned, it was one of the tragedies on board that there was not enough communication from the Bridge. One could see and hear that something dreadful had happened, but what it really was and how it should be treated was not clear for a long time! Main languages on board were English and Italian – French or even German was not among those. I was one of the German-speaking group (including Swiss and Austrians), but as it turned out, the only German passenger on board. I had of course understood everything, except the tone signals. For instance the signal “Sauve qui peut” (all people off ship) had to be explained to me by a steward! By the way, this was the very first time that it became clear to me in what desperate circumstances we all were ….

This was, at the time, another exciting occurrence! When the ship grew more listing from minute to minute, the passengers panicked and went up to their decks en masse to see what really happened and if they could reach their life boats. But they soon realized that, because of the listing (and the slippery night fog), it was difficult to walk on deck and furthermore, half the boats could no longer be used (lowered to the water). Now everything happened only on the lower side and some people tried to get to the boats by force and wild cries! My friend Boris and I tried to “save the children first” by lowering them with thin ropes that we had cut from the wind-protection canvases along the deck reeling – some of the children even upside down! The mothers cheered when the children were accepted down there by sailors into the safety of boats. After all the children on our section on deck were gone, only an old grandpa was left whom we knew that he was blind! We nevertheless pushed him over the reeling and lowered him just the same, but he was too heavy and the thin lines broke! He fell into one boat and messed up his face with blood – we did not dare to look at him from above but he was safe now! Apparently, the ship was listing so fast because the Doria was hit by the Stockholm exactly into some of her almost empty fuel tanks on one side and that caused the sea water to rush in by force. That seems to be the cause of the fatal listings and was, as far as we know, eventually the beginning of the end. In fact, some rescue incidents had a peculiar influence on me. I recently read in a newspaper article that the little girl from the Andrea Doria who died in a Boston hospital (Norma) had a sister that was not born yet at the time. She has now written a book about the sinking on her insight and on the stories her parents had told her. Then she dedicated the finished book especially to her little dead sister, in order to tell her about all things that happened afterwards. Another incident was also unforgettable for me. As the collision had taken place relatively close to the American coast, a number of smaller (press) airplanes reached the spot rather quickly. Especially the yellow helicopters of the American Coast Guards came soon to bring wounded passengers of the Stockholm to the mainland. The Swedish nurses there had all hands full to do to give first aid to them but the medical doctor on boards finally decided to call the Coast guards for the more seriously wounded. After arrival, the Copter pilots simply “parked” their machines over the fore deck and pulled the wounded people by cable on board. In this way, I believe, 8 or 10 people were flown to a Boston hospital, among them the little child Norma – R.i.P.

By the time Boris and I decided to leave the ship, too, the Swedish captain had already ordered his life boats on water, after he was assured that although his ship was badly hurt too, it would not sink! These boats were smaller than ours and had to be rowed by Swedish sailors. That was a hard job, because in the course of the night, the waves became higher and the sight was dim because of the fog. After a while, a Swedish motor boat found us (and another boat) and pulled us by rope through the night. But the ropes broke several times and it took them a while to find us again. That’s why we came on board rather late, almost at dawn – all seasick and scantily clad …

Next morning, we could see the Doria rather clearly from the Stockholm deck. On high sea, however, it is not easy to judge distances, but I believe we were only 5 to 10 km apart. When we saw her again at dawn, nobody even thought that we could possibly loose her! It became 6 o`clock, 8 and 10 a.m. and then everything suddenly started to get hectic. Now we could clearly see that she was really sinking – it was even confirmed over the loudspeaker! Everybody ran to the deck reeling although it was very hot that morning – the Stockholm had not moved yet. Exactly like the “Titanic” or now the Costa Concordia (CC) in the Mediterranean, minutes after the sinking started, only debris parts and air foams of the ship remained on the surface, so it seemed – visible for most people. Nevertheless, ten hours after collision, on the 26th of July 1956, at 10:10h a.m. and after even the captain had left his ship, our beautiful “Andrea Doria” had suddenly completely disappeared from the Ocean within a couple of minutes and was gone forever! Just foam and wreck parts were visible on the spot – I could not believe my eyes! Some deep-sea explorers and divers like Peter A. Gimbel saw her again one week later with their cameras in about 200 feet depth, lying on the Ocean floor on one side, apparently completely intact and seemingly peacefully sleeping – an extraordinary photo picture, sad but stunning! On all following pictures, the decay of time is already clearly visible as the ship was never raised so far …

In that summer of 1956 it took us almost three days until the Stockholm arrived at the Swedish pier in New York! The ship had lost almost 10 m of its bow and still had to be made sea-worthy again for various hours, before it could be moved again – naturally very slowly! That we arrived so late was insofar bad luck for me, because my family at home in Freiburg could not be notified earlier! Most of the other survivors, especially on board the “Ile de France”, had already sent their sea cables three days earlier! I myself also tried to send a telegram from the “Stockholm”, but understandably, the cable room there had other things to do than sending private telegrams abroad. This three-day delay was not easy for my parents. However, I was still a young man, 26 years old and unmarried, so I did not have much to worry about – although I had lost everything (including my Air France ticket to Mexico City). A nice story was told me afterwards from my younger brothers at home. A few months before my departure to Genoa, I had been in Barcelona and used the occasion to let a Spanish Taylor make me a Tuxedo (dinner jacket) for the crossing. One of my brothers was obviously very impressed with that and had told my parents that he would not believe that I didn´t survive until he had seen a picture of me struggling with the Ocean waves in my white dinner jacket …



Courtesy of Facebook page, Captain Piero Calamai and Matteo Albertini

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Andrea Doria survivor Mike Stoller to write film score for movie on the sea tragedy

On July 25th, 1956 the Italian ship Andrea Doria collided with the Stockholm in the Coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. The captain who carried out the greatest sea rescue in peacetime history, Captain Piero Calamai, has often been accused for the collision. Now, nearly 60 years after the tragedy, survivor Pierette Simpson wants to tell the truth about that night in a movie that shows the courage and competence of the Captain and the crew through the memories of a young Pierette and the stories of other survivors. Legendary songwriter, Mike Stoller, who survived the Andrea Doria sinking will write the film score. This is just the start of a BIG project, keep in touch!

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Italian Court Needs to Demonstrate a Need for Sea Ethics!

Appalling, yet not surprising for Italy’s justice system.  It took the courts two a half years to impose 16 years of prison to Captain Schettino of the  infamous Costa Concordia.  Although it may seem a lot of years,  he won’t start serving until after a couple more appeals,  which, who knows,  may free him.

What I have found most repulsive about the sentence was that only one year was imposed for abandoning ship!  Isn’t abandoning ship against all ethical  seafaring code?  From my understanding, it’s not  a legal responsibility, but it should be!  In fact,  I think after this tragic case,  the public should demand it.  Why  should cruise passengers rely on the ethical choice,  rather than legal responsibility of a captain? This  makes me wonder,  is it legal for an airline pilot to parachute out of a plane before it crashes? If so,  under what circumstances? And  is it a fair comparison? Perhaps not.

Captain Schettino is  a terrible role model for  Italian mariners and all mariners. He’s  a ghastly role model for young people in general. As  the Italian media has rightfully called him, “Captain Coward” is a new model. Captains of old were proud to die with their ships, under any circumstance. “Schettino the Skittish” (my name for him), felt no shame abandoning his passengers, even refusing to return to his ship when being reprimanded by the Coast Guard!

What a contrast to the behavior of an honorable sea captain. Even though he had not caused the accident (like Schettino), Captain Calamai of the Andrea Doria at first refused to get into the last lifeboat with his officers. As I wrote in ALIVE ON THE ANDREA DORIA,

“…When  all of the haggard officers had reached the lifeboat, Maganini (First Officer),  suddenly realized his master was not descending. “Come down!”  He shouted at him from the ladder (from the listing ship to the last lifeboat on the scene).  Capt. Calamai  signaled with a defiant gesture of his hand that the Russians continue boarding the lifeboat and  that he was remaining exactly where he was, adding sharply in his native tongue, “Andate via. Io rimango! Go away, I’m staying! Magagnini  was about to do no such thing, shouting again, “Either  you come down, or we’ll come up!” Seeing that his captain was standing firm, Magagnini  began climbing back up the swaying rope ladder as the other officers positioned themselves to queue up behind him, again in order of rank morally prepared to give their lives. Seeing the danger in which he was placing his crew as they reported the sinking vessel, the master of the Queen of the Italian Line finally relented. He motioned Magagnini to descend, and he, too, abandoned the Doria at her most vulnerable moment, 5:30 AM on July 26, 1956.

Calamai is the  heroic figure in which the Italian court  should have based their sentence for Schettino!


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And the trial of Captain Cowardice continues: Costa Concordia passengers testify

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Will disbanding the S. Korean Coast Guard secure more safety on our seas?

The South Korean president believes it will. I’m not sure “disbanding” is what’s appropriate. Punishing the CG members who saved only the captain and crew, ignoring please from the students, would be most appropriate. Of course, a better trained CG is essential, but only if safety is taught along with dignity, morality, and competence.

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The Kon Tiki: Beating the impossible odds of survival at sea!

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S. Korea’s ferry boat tragedy is only one of many other tragedies!

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Sea Captains in history: what is the rule of the sea?

Informative article about courageous and cowardly captains:

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Excerpt: I Was Shipwrecked on the Andrea Doria! The Titanic of the 1950s

The eastbound ship was approaching quickly. The officers realized that this was a fast-moving ship and traveling in an unassigned lane.

Officer Giannini felt to make sure that his gold crucifix pendant was in place. He noticed that his palms were sweaty but told himself, We are still a safe distance away. If the other vessel maintains its course, all will be fine.

The oncoming ship was now three and a half miles away.

“How close will she pass?” the captain asked.

“About one mile to starboard,” Giannini replied, nervous but still not alarmed.

The captain turned to the helmsman and gave an order. “Steer four degrees to port.”

It was 11:00. With each passing moment, the officers strained to sight the oncoming ship visually. They knew that radar was still not as precise as their own eyes, but the dense fog was robbing them of this advantage.

“Why don’t we hear her?” Giannini asked the captain. “Why doesn’t she whistle?”

The captain was now silent, perhaps focusing on his intuition, as there was not much time to discuss details or even strategy. He recalled watching American movies where the Indian chief, on horseback, sat perfectly still, as if calling upon all of his senses to decide when to raise his arrow and signal attack. Was this to be his unwanted battle?

As Officer Giannini aimed his binoculars out into the eerie night, an unbelievable sight met him head-on: the mast lights of the silent approaching ship were now visible and showing the port-side red light instead of the expected green.

“She is turning! She is turning!” Giannini exclaimed with a blood-curdling cry. “She is showing the red light. She is coming toward us!”

“I see her,” the captain said faintly, his stare fixed rigidly on the other ship racing toward him at full speed.

Incredibly and inexplicably, the other ship was seconds from striking the Andrea Doria at full speed. Captain Calamai knew that he had to act instantly. He knew that in extreme situations, he had a choice to turn in whatever way he deemed wise.

“Hard left!” he shouted, the loudest he’d ever shouted in his life, as he faced his helmsman.

Would his liner respond in time to clear the collision? he wondered, his heart pounding hard enough to feel the beats in his head.

For several seconds, the captain stood immobilized. Officer Franchini realized this but knew that they had to signal their immediate left turn. He asked, “The two whistles?”

The captain nodded.

“The engines?” Franchini was suggesting that they should be shut down to lessen the blow.

“No! Don’t touch the engines! We need all the speed!” It was the captain’s intention to outrace the vessel that was about to broadside his.

At 11:10, the stunned officers of the pristine Italian liner saw a raging foe rip through a curtain of fog on the night water of the Atlantic. The captain clenched his teeth, awaiting the inevitable: the ramming of the Doria’s starboard side.

God, let my passengers be saved! he said in a brief, silent prayer.

The men on the bridge and the lookout in the crow’s nest braced themselves, helpless to save their prized liner. They watched in complete horror as a surreal, unidentified bow punctured the Doria’s double hull. Screeches, groans, and crashes echoed for miles on the Atlantic. Sputtering sparks sprang from the friction of the massive crash. The calm silence of the night was transformed into a cacophony accompanied by grotesque fireworks.

Ten minutes later, the captain was able to identify his offender as it noisily withdrew from the Doria’s entrails and he could read the name, STOCKHOLM.

“Dear God!” Officer Franchini exclaimed as he saw the mass of twisted steel that looked like the jaws of a monster, once the bow of the Stockholm.

As for the Andrea Doria, it now listed heavily, moaning mournfully and almost immobile.

Captain Calamai grabbed the railing…


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Survivors of the Titanic: The Untold Stories

It is hard to believe that it has been a hundred years since the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage. By now everyone has heard of the tragedy that happened during the ship’s journey. People across the world have been mesmerized by the stories of those who have survived. People from all walks of life have become fascinating parts of history for future generations. Thanks to Hollywood, we now have movies that capture what may have happened during the ship’s final hours. Though we know about the rich and famous, what about those who are rarely talked about. Since there were only slightly mare than 700 survivors, it is time that we heard other sides of the story.


Charles Joughin

Charles has proven that surviving on whiskey can help keep your insides warm. You can actually see his character portrayed in several adaptations of the tragedy as a fun loving drunk who clung on to a railing for dear life. Though he may have been shown as always having fun, Joughin was actually on the ship as a baker and had signed on to work the ship since its delivery in Belfast. As chief baker, Charles was in charge of watching over other bakers who worked under him. When the ship hit the iceberg he immediately took action and got his crew up to the life boats, providing each of them with bread. Through his efforts, he is also known for helping women and children understand the severity of the situation and getting them on life boats. Charles stayed aboard the ship until it began to sink. Once he was in the water he had to survive for almost three hours in the freezing cold until he was rescued. Many attribute the fact that he stayed on the ship and enjoyed whiskey as the reason for him being able to survive the cold for as long as he did.

Margaret Devaney

Margaret was in her late teens when she boarded the ship with a few of her girlfriends. Margaret was leaving Ireland to meet up with her family that was already in New York. While they were on the ship the girls were unaware of what was happening around them until another passenger alerted them that they need to get their lifejackets and head up to the deck. If you have seen Titanic then you probably remember that some of the gates were locked, stranding passengers on their class levels. Through this tragedy, the girls were still able to find themselves to a ladder that lead to a deck. After one of her friends got seasickness, Margaret decided to continue on alone. Up on the deck she was shoved into a boat. Once aboard the boat, there were issues getting the boat loose. Luckily, Margaret had a pocket knife and they were able to use it to get the life boat free.

Dr. Washington Dodge

When he set sail on the Titanic, Dr. Washington Dodge was an affluent banker who was just returning from a European vacation with his wife and son. On the night of the accident the doctor and his wife were walking on the deck when they noticed the swift change in temperature. Later that night they were awaken when the ship hit the iceberg. After seeing that nothing seemed amiss they decided to stay in their room. After a while there was still an air of nervousness that could not be shaken. This time when they emerged from their room they noticed a different picture. People were pushing to get on the life boats and the doctor rushed his family along. Once his wife and child were securely on a boat, Dodge was allowed to get on a boat because of his class. After surviving the sinking vessel, tragedy struck the Dodge family again when Dr. Washington attempted to kill himself in 1919.

Jennie Hansen

There are just some people who bad luck tends to find, and Jennie Hansen is one of those people. Prior to embarking on the Titanic, Jennie was in a hotel fire, almost died in the elevator, and was found unconscious due to gas fumes. Jennie knew in her gut that something bad would happen when she and her husband took the voyage aboard the ship. After the ship hit the iceberg, Jennie’s husband was insistent that she board the life boats and live to tell their story. Both her husband and his brother never made it off the perishing ship. Following the trauma, Jennie recovered in New York where it was discovered that she was no longer able to shed tears. She subsequently suffered from horrific nightmares about the accident.

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