Sunken luxury: the loss of the SS Andrea Doria

3 Jan

The SS Andrea Doria name invokes tragedy now, but at the time of construction, she represented the hopes of Italian recovery after World War II. Construction began in 1950 with the ship launching in June 16, 1951. In terms of size, she was 697 feet long with a 90 feet beam and had a total tonnage of 29,100 tons. When fully furnished, she represented a source of Italian pride by being one of the finest ships on the Atlantic Ocean at the time. Even her namesake, the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, invokes a sense of Italian maritime power.

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The SS Andrea Doria at sea.

During her three years of service from 1953 to 1956, she had many transatlantic voyages and became popular with passengers for her luxury accommodations and quick speed. Passengers had every form of entertainment at their disposal, from movie to swimming pools, orchestras to modern artworks and mosaics. A lot of money and wealth went into the Andrea Doria, both in terms of construction and her passengers.

On the night of July 25, 1956, the Andrea Doria was on the final leg of a voyage, destined for New York City the following day. Travelling through heavy fog, the bridge officers noted a radar blip ahead. Despite taking evasive maneuvers, the distance between the two ships was too little for any meaningful actions. Out of the fog, the bow of the MS Stockholm, a Swedish American Line passenger liner, plowed into the Andrea Doria’s starboard side, leaving a gaping hole. However, safety measures kept the Andrea Doria afloat for 11 hours, long enough for the survivors to evacuate. All together, 46 people died aboard the Andrea Doria while 6 crew members of the Stockholm were killed, most during the collision itself.

The below newsreel shows images of the doomed ship in the early hours of July 26, 1956. Divers descended upon the wreck just a day after its sinking to find it lying on its starboard side at a depth of about 250 feet, far too deep for recreational diving.

Divers descended upon the wreck just a day after its sinking to find it lying on its starboard side at a depth of about 250 feet, far too deep for recreational diving. Since then, through advances in diving equipment, technical divers are able to reach the wreck.

In 1981, adventurer Peter Gimbel, his wife Elga and a salvage team uncovered the Bank of Rome safe held onboard the ship. When the safe was opened in 1984, thousands of American $1 silver certificates, hundreds of Italian bank notes as well as American Express checks were found, still preserved despite decades of submersion. The Gimbels carefully preserved and encased the banknotes in protective Lucite holders before offering them on the numismatic market. Many silver certificates and Italian lira have since been graded by PCGS Currency according to shipwreck grading standards.

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An example of a Andrea Doria recovered $1 silver certificate.

As the leading shipwreck coin and artifact dealer, Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC has a number of $1 silver certificates recovered from the SS Andrea Doria for sale. All notes are graded “A” by PCGS Currency, meaning they are almost entirely intact (despite 30 years of saltwater immersion), with prices dependent upon the eye appeal of the note. They come in a blue case along with a DVD of their recovery by the Gimbels and their crew. To view these notes, please click on the picture below and navigate to the Andrea Doria listing:

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Today, heavy currents, silt clouds and the depth still make the Andrea Doria a difficult wreck to dive, earning it the nickname “the Mount Everest of wreck diving.” Regardless, the allure of the ship’s luxury and artifacts still on board bring divers back again and again. For many, a dive to the SS Andrea Doria will never happen. By buying these silver certificates, anyone can own a piece of history from a ship that launched with so much promise only to become a modern tragedy.

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