****I am sad to announce the passing of my brother, Anthony Grillo on October 21st, 2004. Please keep visiting, being patient with the hopeful continuation of his website. Sincerely, Vivian Grillo****

 

Where_it_happened.gif (53001 bytes)

How was it possible that two great ocean liners, manned by experienced crews and having the latest 1950's radar technology, could collide in open waters? Many factors came together in the same instant, sealing the fate of the Andrea Doria.

At 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 25, 1956, Captain Piero Calamai stood on the bridge of the Andrea Doria, staring to the west. The afternoon sun was headed toward a nebulous haze on the western horizon, the unmistakable precursor of a July fog of the Massachusetts coast.
Fog. The quiet killer of the sea. It enshrouds a ship like a dark blanket, robbing a navigator of his most treasured tool: vision. The Andrea Doria was equipped with two of the latest radar scopes, but Calamai was a traditional captain who preferred the evidence of his eyesight. He would rely on the radar when he had to, but he would keep his own senses vigilant. Fog destroyed more ships than storm winds, coral reefs or icebergs. On this voyage the ship left Genoa on July 17, stopped at Cannes, Naples, and Gibraltar before heading out past the Azores and across a sunny summer route toward New York. She was estimated to arrive at her pier the next morning, Thursday July 26, at 9 a.m.

Like every ship's captain, Calamai had issued standing orders that he was always to be summoned in the event of fog. This Wednesday afternoon he appeared on the bridge before he was called, perhaps sensing an impending haze.The suspicion was based on experience, for the area off Nantucket is often foggy, particularly in July, when the warm currents from the Gulf Stream collide with icy northern waters. A bank of fog stretched ahead of the bow, Calamai called to the engine room to reduce the speed due to fog. The ship slowed from 23 to 21.8 knots. At its slightly reduced speed the Andrea Doria would reach the Ambrose lightship, the last major checkpoint before New York Harbor, at 7 a.m., only one hour behind schedule. The watertight doors were closed to lock the ship into eleven separate compartments below A deck. The Andrea Doria was "unsinkable" as long as not more than two compartments flooded. The other compartments would stay dry as long as the ship did not list more than twenty degrees to either side. The ship's foghorn began to bellow its six-second blast every one minute and forty seconds, a necessary but always foreboding symbol of a blinded ship steaming through fog. A seaman was sent up to the forecastle on the tip of the bow to spot an approaching hazard. One of the two Radar units were switched on and checked for proper operation. The Andrea Doria was rigged for fog.

The Stockholm had left pier 97 in New York  at 11:31 that morning and by nightfall it was well away from New York, cruising ahead at a top speed of eighteen knots. Nordensen walked on the wings of the bridge in contemplation. Third Officer Carstens went about his duties. He checked the compass in front of the helmsman to make sure he was holding course steady at ninety degrees. He stepped outside the wing and glanced at the crow's nest to assure himself the lookout was alert to his post. He looked for signs of fog and plotted the position of the ship. He also monitored the radar scanner, it was set at the fifteen mile range. At 9:40pm the Captain ordered a change of course to eighty-seven degrees that would take them approximately one mile south of the Nantucket Lightship. A few minutes later Captain Nordensen left Carstens in command and went down to his cabin with instructions that he be notified of fog. The navigation of the ship was now completely in the hands of the third mate, who did not need to be reminded of the standing orders of his stern captain. Never leave the bridge without using the standby sailor as lookout, never pass another ship closer than one mile, and in the event of fog, snow, sleet, or any unusual occurrence he was to put the engine telegraph on standby and notify the captain immediately.

The following sequence was pieced together from the books-Collision Course and Saved. The events as originally reported in the books are in error. A corrected sequence of events has been presented here courtesy of Captain Robert J. Meurn of the United States Merchant Marine Academy based on the findings of John C. Carrothers.

Time

Ship

 
9:30pm Andrea Doria Giannini spotted a pip on the radar, seventeen miles distant. Franchini took a loran fix on the Andrea Doria's position, then listened with the radio direction finder for the signal sent out by the Nantucket lightship. He plotted the bearing of the signal and reported to Calamai, "We are headed directly toward the lightship." Calamai ordered a change of course to two hundred and sixty-one degrees. The new course would take them one mile south of the Nantucket lightship.
10:00pm Stockholm Carstens took RDF readings from Block Island and the Nantucket lightship. In addition to its regular directional signal, the Nantucket lightship was broadcasting a special signal that was a coded warning that there was dangerous fog in the area. Though the meaning of the radio signal was recorded in a manual on board, Carstens seemed to be unaware of it.
10:04pm Stockholm Carstens plotting now showed the Stockholm to be two and one-half miles north of its intended course.
10:20pm Andrea Doria The telephone rang on the bridge. The forecastle lookout reported he could hear a foghorn off the starboard bow. Franchini was following the movement of the pip and he told Calamai they were passing the lightship at a distance of one mile. Calamai ordered a course of two hundred and sixty-eight. The Andrea Doria was now headed almost due west, directly toward New York.
10:30pm Stockholm Carstens took another position fix. The Stockholm was farther off course to the north, 2.7 or 2.8 miles from its intended route, drifting in a strong current. Carstens ordered a shift in course two degrees to the south to compensate. At 10:40pm the three seaman rotated duties and Peder Larsen took the helm. Carstens felt he should keep a close watch on the compass with Larsen at the helm. Carstens believed the Danish sailor let his attention wander from strict observation of the compass needle.
10:40pm Andrea Doria "It's a ship. We can see a ship," Franchini yelled out to the others from the chartroom, where he was crouched over the radar screen. "Seventeen miles distance, four degrees on the starboard bow. The unknown ship was almost directly in front of the Andrea Doria's course. A few sweeps of the radar told the officers that the ship was not merely a slower one moving west, such as others they had passed that evening, This ship was moving east, toward the Andrea Doria. It was disconcerting since the oncoming ship was twenty miles north of the recommended eastbound route. The ship was drifting slowly to the right for a safe starboard to starboard meeting.
10:50pm Stockholm Carstens took another RDF reading and the ship was now three miles off coarse to the north. Carstens ordered Larsen to shift course an additional two degrees south, which would put the ship on a heading of ninety-one degrees.
  Andrea Doria Franchini was tracking the bearing of the pip. If the bearing continually increased to the north, it meant the other ship was on a course that would let it pass safely on the starboard side. If the bearing decreased, then the ships were on a dangerous course and would have to take evasive action. The bearing was increasing and if both ships held their courses, they would pass safely starboard-to-starboard. When ships meet head-on in the open sea, they are supposed to pass port-to-port, unless that would force them into a crossing course. Since the ship was already to the starboard side to the north, there seemed to be no reason to swing to the right for a normal port-to-port passage.
  Andrea Doria When the other ship was about seven miles ahead, Franchini switched the radar to a range of eight miles. Each reading seemed to confirm his observation that the other ship would pass safely on his starboard, or right side. Calamai asked "how close will she pass?" Franchini replied, "About one mile to starboard."
11:00pm Stockholm At the helm Larsen reached up and pulled on a cord, ringing six bells-eleven o'clock. Captain Nordensen heard the bells and knew that the Stockholm would soon be approaching the Nantucket lightship and he would need to set a course for the open sea. He carefully put away his logbooks and diary and prepared to go back to the bridge.
11:06pm Stockholm Carstens detects the Andrea Doria to the right of heading flasher on radar after his third RDF fix and through miscalculation on the radar range believes it is 12 miles away. He thinks he is looking at the 15-mile range scale but Andrea Doria in reality is only 4 miles away on the 5-mile scale.
  Andrea Doria When the other ship was three and a half mile away at a bearing of fifteen degrees, Calamai ordered a turn of  four degrees to port. Calamai reasoned the swing to the left would open the gap between the two ships and allow them to pass starboard-to-starboard even farther than the one mile estimate. Calamai and Giannini watched the horizon carefully on the starboard. It was important to make visual contact with the other ship as soon as possible, for radar is at best an imprecise aid to navigation. Eyes are more trustworthy.
11:08pm Stockholm Carstens orders course change to starboard to a course of 118 degrees.
11:09pm Stockholm Carstens looks at radar and detects Andrea Doria 6 miles away thinking he is on 15-mile scale. Actually the Andrea Doria is 2 miles away as the Third Officer is in reality on the 5-mile range scale. The Stockholm's Third Officer detects contact on radar to left of heading flasher and orders a further course change to starboard to 133 degrees.
  Andrea Doria Calamai did not expect to see the other vessel until it was close, because of the fog, but he was puzzled that he did not at least hear its foghorn. Giannini studied the radar and saw the other ship at a distance of one and a half miles and at a bearing of thirty to thirty-five degrees off to the right. Going outside he searched the starboard side with his binoculars. Suddenly he saw a blur of lights some thirty-five degrees off to the right, just as the radar had indicated.
  Stockholm When the compass indicator moved fifteen degrees, the mate ordered, "Amidships." In response, Larsen brought the wheel back to center.
  Andrea Doria The ships were about one mile apart when the vague glow of the approaching vessel separated into visible masthead lights. Giannini pointed his binoculars at the glow and strained to see the masthead lights. There were two white lights, the lower one slightly to the right of the other. For an instant, Calamai thought the other ship would pass safely to the right. It was perhaps the last serene moment Captain Piero Calamai would ever experience. Giannini was suddenly confronted with the realization that the lower masthead light of the other ship was rapidly swinging to the left of the higher masthead light, and the red light on the port side of the other ship was now visible for the first time. The other ship was turning directly toward the Andrea Doria. Calamai had to act quickly, "Hard left!" he yelled at Helmsman Giulio Visciano. It was a last daring attempt to outrun a disaster, by turning the Andrea Doria to the left faster than the unknown vessel was turning to the right. Franchini blew two short whistle blasts to signal a left turn and straining under a hard left rudder, the Andrea Doria slid forward for perhaps half a mile before the turn took effect. But instead of easing the Andrea Doria away from the menacing ship coming toward them, the turn exposed the broad mass of the Doria's side, like a target, to the onrushing bow of the other vessel.
11:10:30pm Stockholm On the bridge, both Bjorkman and Carstens simultaneously saw a dramatic change in the unknown ship's navigational lights, and stared into the darkness in disbelief. Horror etched across Carstens' face. He could see the other ship swinging into a hard left turn that was bringing it into a direct line with the Stockholm's course. Soon, he saw the entire starboard side of the other ship in front of him. Carstens could see the sharp steel bow of his ship headed directly for the vulnerable broadside of the giant in front of him. Carstens had no time to speculate. The mate pulled hard on the telegraph indicator to FULL SPEED ASTERN, to lessen the force of the impact by reversing the engines. At the same moment, he decided to turn the ship's bow away from the looming target. "Hard starboard!" he yelled at Larsen. Larsen turned the wheel five full revolutions to the right and held it firmly in place. Carstens heard the unknown ship's whistle shriek a protest into the night. Carstens could hear the starboard screw finally spin backward, but he knew that it was too late. He braced himself for the impact, and watched helplessly as the white bow of his ship took aim on the starboard side of the black hull of the Andrea Doria.
11:11:15pm Andrea Doria "She is coming against us!" Calamai yelled in amazement. The captain instinctively drew back from the railing of the wing. The bow of the intruder seemed to point directly at him on the bridge, though he knew it would hit much lower some forty feet below. For an instant Calamai wished he was down there, where the impact would crush him. It would be an act of mercy, for the captain saw in the approaching bow a more horrible destiny. He was a captain! This was his ship! How could this happen to him? Never in all his years at sea had Piero Calamai felt so alone. Then the Stockholm struck!

Collision_Sequence.jpg (21563 bytes)

Stockholm Bridge.gif (33255 bytes) The third mate of the Stockholm used the radar set barely seen here on the extreme right and the telephone on the aft wall in the foreground.
Stockholm Radar.gif (27493 bytes) A close-up of the Stockholm radar set, which had been checked for accuracy the day before the collision, and the plotting board to the right.
Andrea Doria Bridge.gif (26024 bytes) The spacious wheelhouse of the Andrea Doria contained two telegraphs, two radar sets and two helms. The metal wheel automatic pilot was switched off when fog was encountered.
Andrea Doria Chart Room.gif (26706 bytes) The Doria's chartroom behind the wheelhouse. The radar plotting device was in the top drawer.
Stockholm Engine Room.gif (60660 bytes) The Stockholm Engine Room where one man, standing at the desk in the center when the telegraph rang FULL SPEED ASTERN, had to open two air valves and reverse both engine wheels seen here.

 

Send mail to webmaster@andreadoria.org with technical questions or comments about this web site.
Send mail to agrillo@andreadoria.org to contact Anthony Grillo about the contents of the web site.
All original material Copyright 1998-2003  Anthony Grillo, all others are the Copyright of their respective holders
Last modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2007