The leading disaster story of 1956 was the collision during a foggy Long Island summer night of the Italian liner Andrea Doria with the Swedish liner Stockholm. Here, journalist Goldstein (Mine Eyes Have Seen, 1997) offers the definitive history of the Doria’s sinking and the rescue of 1,700 people.
Despite the modest death toll (46), the Doria’s story bears striking resemblance to the Titanic’s. Both were luxury liners built to the most advanced technology, sailing too fast in a dangerous area with poor visibility. In both, it was clear soon after the collision that the ship would sink. Both evacuations, however, were chaotic. Despite many heroic exceptions, too many crewmembers panicked, crowding into the first lifeboats. Unlike the Titanic, the Doria carried enough boats, but half were unavailable. At any angle above 15 degrees, boats on the high side couldn’t be launched, and the Doria’s list quickly reached 18 degrees. Because boats on the low side had to be dropped into the sea before loading, passengers were forced to climb down rope ladders or jump into the water. If the Doria had sunk in the Titanic’s two-and-a-half hours instead of eleven, the death toll would have been catastrophic. After the rescue came the usual recriminations, investigations, and lawsuits. Each side gave conflicting versions of the collision, so no blame could be assigned. Even today the Andrea Doria continues to exact a toll. Resting at 250 feet, the limit for a skilled diver, it receives a steady stream of visitors. They explore, extract souvenirs, and sometimes die, at the rate of nearly one per year.
Goldstein has interviewed a mass of participants and experts. The result: a detailed and authoritative history ranging from the background of the liners and the technical details of ship construction and transatlantic navigation to a gripping account of the collision, rescue, and aftermath.