Steamship Sunday – The Collision of the Andrea Doria and Stockholm

Steamship Sunday


Andrea Doria listing heavily to starboard after being rammed by M.S. Stockholm

The Collision of the Andrea Doria and Stockholm
25 July, 1956

In dense fog off of Nantucket on the night of 25 July, 1956, the beautiful pride of the Italian Line, Andrea Doria, was hit on the starboard bow by the Swedish motor ship Stockholm. As this collision was the first to be followed by the then still-new medium of television, the sinking of the Andrea Doria is still remembered around the world by those who saw her televised plunge to floor of the Atlantic.

Andrea Doria and her sister Cristoforo Colombo were the result of the Italian Line’s recovery from World War II. The company wanted grand new ships to compete with U.S. Lines’ United States, the Cunard Queens and the French Line’s Île-de-France and upcoming France.

The keel for the new Andrea Doria was laid on 2 September, 1950. She was launched on 16 June, 1951. She began her maiden voyage from Genoa to New York on 14 January, 1953. Her slightly larger sister ship, Cristoforo Colombo made her maiden voyage in 1954.

andrea (7)

Italian style at sea – Andrea Doria underway

Andrea Doria was 702 feet long, had a beam of 90 feet and was powered by four Parsons steam turbines. She was capable of making 26 knots, 32.5 miles-per-hour. (United States was capable of 35 knots, 43.75 miles-per-hour, but many ships in the transatlantic service were slower than the Italian sisters.) Andrea Doria accommodated 218 First Class, 320 Cabin Class and 703 Tourist Class passengers served by carried 563 officers and crew.

She and her sister were named for Genoa’s two most famous sea captains. While Columbus went off in search of new sea routes and new worlds, Doria stayed home and fought off (in turn) the Spanish, the French and Barbary pirates. One of the most wily fighting men and politicians of his day, it is Andrea Doria who is credited as the first man to discover how to sail against the wind. He became Admiral of the Genoese Fleet and is considered by many Italians as being the “Father of his country.”

The story of the Swedish-American liner Stockholm stands in sharp contrast to the short-lived Andrea Doria. Now named Azores and operated by the Cruise & Maritime line, she is still sailing today, 68 years after she first entered service!

Stockholm‘s beginning was inauspicious. Given her checkered early days, no one at the time would have dared guess that in 2016 she would still be sailing! First was a huge debate within the management of Swedish-American Line about what size and style their needed post-war ship should be. Many argued – heatedly – for a ship the size of the sister ships Italian Lines would launch, that is just under 30,000 tons with a length of some 700 feet. This was the class Swedish-American Lines’ pre-war Stockholm II had been as was Stockholm III. SAL (Swedish-American Lines) never took delivery of Stockholm III. She had been built in Italy and with the outbreak of the war, SAL cancelled the ship in 1941. The Italians were happy to accept the cancellation as they lacked at that moment a ship of that size. Renamed Sabaudia, she went directly to the Italian war effort as a troop ship. During a British air raid on Trieste in 1944, she was hit by a bomb, caught fire and sank.


With yacht-like lines, this is how Stockholm looked in 1948 as she entered service.

Stockholm IV

Those in the management of SAL arguing for a smaller ship correctly estimated that in the post war years, air travel would take a huge toll on passenger ship bookings. Thus Stockholm IV was built as a diesel-powered smaller ship with yacht-like lines. As built, she measured 525 feet in length and displaced 11,650 tons. She carried 113 First Class and 282 Tourist Class passengers, served by 220 officers and crew. She was one of the very first ships to offer everyone on board – passenger and crew alike – a room with a porthole or window. Everyone had a view of the sea.

Her decor and accommodations were deliberately less formal and ostentatious than SAL’s pre-war passenger ships. Those among the Swedish-American Line staff who had argued for a larger and more grandiose ship were caught by surprise when Stockholm IV came into great demand as a cruise ship, particularly in Mediterranean or Caribbean waters because of her intimate size and more relaxed atmosphere.

With her sleek lines, white hull and pale yellow smokestack with the blue circle and three Swedish crowns on the sides of the stack, she looked quite graceful. Her designers, however, made a huge mistake by not fitting her with stabilizers. In her first few years of service, winter crossings between Gothenburg in New York could be very rough. The ship pitched and tossed badly in the North Atlantic winters, earning the sobriquet “worst tosser on the North Atlantic.”

Stockholm was ordered in October of 1944, even though the war still raged in Europe and had almost another year to go in the Pacific. Her keel was laid down in 1945 but her construction was repeatedly delayed by strikes in the Swedish shipyard in which she was built. She finally entered service in 1948.

While her designers erred by not fitting her with stabilizers, they did reinforce her bow to deal with ice. This would prove to be a truly life-saving benefit in 1956.

Stockholm received an extensive refit early in 1956. She was at last fitted with stabilizers and her superstructure was reworked so she could carry more passengers.


Stockholm as she appeared in 1956 after her refitting and before her collision in July with Andrea Doria

On the night of 25 July, 1956, the freshly-refurbished Stockholm was sailing from New York to Gothenburg. At 2300 that night, she “met” Andrea Doria.

Stockholm was not alone with stability problems, though on this night, that issue had been fixed on the Stockholm.

Andrea Doria also suffered from stability problems. On this voyage, Andrea Doria was sailing with steering problems as well. It is clearly stated on record that Captain Piero Calamai had requested to postpone the voyage and to place the ship into dry dock for repairs, but the company executives ordered that the ship was to depart as scheduled. This was because it was at the height of the summer tourist season and the Andrea Doria was fully booked, thus she had to sail. If she did not it would have been a financial disaster! Little did the Italian Line know that this voyage was going to be a much worse financial disaster than had she gone into dry dock.

The combination of her poor stability and steering problems at the time of the collision proved to be factors in her eventual sinking, but the biggest issue that sank her was that her watertight bulkheads did not work effectively.

The Andrea Doria ran into fog about 150 miles from the Nantucket Light Vessel. The Captain of the ship took the necessary precautions when entering fog fields. The watertight doors – the ones that were properly functioning, that is – were closed, the siren was sounded and lookouts posted.

Navigational Law requires that if a vessel encounters fog, the ship must proceed at “moderate speed” so that the ship could stop within visibility distance. Andrea Doria reduced speed by five knots – but at that “reduced” speed, she was still steaming at 21 knots, very similar to the speed of Titanic when she hit the iceberg that April night 44 years earlier.

By 2000 hrs, visibility had deteriorated to half a mile ahead. There were two ships showing up on the ships radar but Andrea Doria soon overtook them because she was steaming at 21 knots.


Above: Capt. Piero Calamai of the Andrea Doria


Above: Capt. Gunnar Nordensson, Stockholm
Stockholm 3rd Mate Carsens Johannsen; Inset is Helmsman Peter Larsen


At 21h30m, another ship appeared on the radar. It was the Nantucket Light Vessel. Andrea Doria altered course to 6º to port to place the vessel on the starboard side. At 22h20m, it was reported that the light vessel was only 1 mile from starboard. At 22h45m, Second Officer Francini spotted another ship on the radar. Captain Calamari confirmed that the ship was on the starboard bow. He reckoned that the ships would pass each other starboard to starboard but leaving a narrow margin for error.

He decided to alter course again 4º to port to widen the gap between the ships. In doing so Calamai made a grave mis-judgement. He also broke the Rule of Road which states that when two ships meet end on, both ships should alter course to starboard. (In doing this, the ships would turn away from each other.) Had Calamai not turned to the port (left), he likely would have avoided the collision. Instead, by turning to the port, Andrea Doria turned directly into the path of Stockholm with its sturdy made-for-cutting-ice bow.

Seeing a red port light on their starboard bow instead of a green starboard light, Captain Calamai ordered hard to port, now to try to turn out of the path of Stockholm and sounded a double blast on the ship’s siren. Andrea Doria started to turn but the Stockholm’s bow crashed into the starboard side of the Andrea Doria.

Stockholm’s bow caused tremendous damage to the Andrea Doria’s starboard side. At the time of the collision, Andrea Doris  was travelling approximately 21 knots and Stockholm at 18.

Both ships gave SOS distress calls. Andrea Doria gave her position to be 40º 30’ North, 69º 55’ West.

Stockholm had hit Andrea Doria in the starboard fuels tanks. Since they were nearly empty, water gushed into them at a rapid rate and the ship rapidly started to list to starboard. Even with the malfunctioning watertight doors, Andrea Doria could have survived a 15º list but soon that list had developed into a 22º list. There was a system onboard to fill the fuel tanks on the opposite side with sea water to regain balance but unfortunately, the bow of the Stockholm had pierced through a corridor where the pump room was and therefore the room was inaccessible. The flooded corridor also led to the generator room. The loss of power to the ship was imminent. Compounding the problem was the non-functioning watertight doors.

andrea doria collisione

Another problem had developed. As the Andrea Doria had taken a serious starboard list, lifeboats on the port side could not be lowered. The number of unusable lifeboats accounted for over half the passengers onboard. It was obvious that help from other ships would be needed to carry out the rescue.

Andrea Doria-about to capsize

With her extreme list to the starboard side, Andrea Doria‘s port side lifeboats were unusable.

Stockholm was partially crippled for quite some time due to one of her anchor cables having gone down and had anchored itself on the sea bed. Worse still, there were three of Stockholm’s crew attached to the chain and they had been pulled underwater. As soon as the ship was able to raise the chain, Stockholm went to the rescue and she was indeed the very first ship to take on board Andrea Doria’s survivors. Stockholm was able to take on board 327 passengers as well as 245 crewmembers.

The first vessel to arrive was the United Fruit Company freighter Cape Ann which arrived at 00h30m. She took on board 129 survivors. Next to arrive was the U.S. Navy transport ship W.H. Thomas at 01h15m. She took on board 158 survivors. At 01h30m, the French Line’s grand luxury passenger liner Île-de-France arrived at the scene and took a 758 survivors on board. The last to arrive was the U.S. Navy Destroyer Escort E.H. Allen arriving at 05h10m and taking on board 77 survivors.


Above: French Line’s Île-de-France took 758 of Andrea Doria‘s survivors to New York. Below: Andrea Doria seen from Île-de-France.

Andrea Doria_Île-de-France

Despite her sheered off bow, Stockholm was still operable and (as we read above) had taken on board a total of 572 of Andrea Doria’s survivors, which was a large number of additional people for such a small liner. However, the crew made everyone comfortable and there was ample good food on board considering her voyage had only just commenced and she was bound for Europe.


Above: Despite having her bow sheered off, Stockholm and 572 survivors from Andrea Doria made it back to New York. Below: The “Miracle girl,” Andrea Doria passenger Linda Morgan in a New York hospital with her father, Edward  Morgan. Standing on the left is Stockholm’s Bernabe Garcia who found her. She had been tossed unharmed except for bruises from her bed on Andrea Doria to the Foc’asle  of the Stockholm.

Linda Morgan_Stockholm

One of the survivors came to be known as “The Miracle Girl.” This is the story of 14-year-old Linda Morgan who was on board Andrea Doria with her Mother, Mrs. Jane Cianfarra, the girl’s step father, New York Times foreign correspondent Camille Cianfarra and Linda’s half-sister Joan. Mr. and Mrs. Cianfarra had cabin 54 on Upper Deck. Linda and Joan were in the adjoining cabin next door, number 52. Linda’s birth Father was Edward Morgan. Linda’s parents had divorced and their mother married Camille. Linda had been born in Mexico but was also raised in Italy and Spain, thus she spoke English, Italian and Spanish.

When the Stockholm struck the Andrea Doria, her bow slid just under Linda’s bed and somehow catapulted Linda onto the foc’sle of the Stockholm, and she lay just behind a sea breaker that was about 1 ½ ft high and was the full width of the ship. Although the forward section of the bow had now gone, she would have been a good 80 feet behind where the peak of the bow would have been.

Of course no one was on the top, but below looking for survivors as there were crew quarters in the forward section of the ship and sadly five crewmembers were lost and others were injured. However, a thirty six year old Spanish cleaner named Bernabe Garcia, felt he needed some fresh air and went up on deck, far forward. He heard a girl crying and calling for her mother. It seemed to come from near the wreckage on the bow section. He got onto his hands and knees and followed the sound and discovered a girl in yellow pajamas. She looked at him and he said in Spanish, “¿Dondé está su Mamá?” – “Were is your mother?” He was amazed at her being there. At the time he thought that she must have been one of the Stockholm’s passengers. It was only after she was taken to the ship’s doctor and nurse that it was discovered that she was not on the passenger list and that she was indeed a miracle having been launched almost unharmed by the impact from one ship to another.

In the meantime, her mother Jane was clinging to life in the part of her cabin that was still left and rescue attempts were still underway. Thankfully she was saved although she heard her husband, Camille Cianfarra, sigh his very last breath. In addition, Linda’s half sister Joan lost her life as her bed was directly in line of the approaching bow, whereas Linda was simply in the right place, as if by a miracle!

Despite her damage, Stockholm, in respect to Andrea Doria and also to watch for further survivors, remained with Andrea Doria until she finally slipped under the waves. As Andrea Doria went down, Stockholm sounded her horn as a tribute to the ship and to those that had sadly perished. Then after Andrea Doria had gone out of sight Stockholm returned to New York under her own power.


Andrea Doria slips under the waves to the sea floor.

Obviously the return voyage meant that there would be quite some tension for many on board, considering Stockholm’s badly twisted and crumbled bow. The forward watertight bulkhead was the ship’s only only protection keeping the ocean water out of the ship. Should it have given way during the voyage it could turn into yet another disaster.

Stockholm was carrying a massive 1,319 people and her lifeboat capacity was for just 846 persons. That capacity was more than sufficient for a fully laden Stockholm under normal circumstances but insufficient now. Had that watertight bulkhead failed, a second sea disaster would have been at hand. But the Stockholm being so well built and an extremely strong ship, stood up to the massive challenge and she slowly continued, averaging 8.4 knots, for her voyage back to New York where arrived on 27 July, the day after Andrea Doria had gone down.

Survivors on the other ships as well as Captain Piero Calamai had already arrived a day earlier and made statements to the media naming Stockholm as being the ship at fault. Thus the shores were lined with people who thought Stockholm was the culprit. However, as they saw the small Stockholm arrive with her missing bow, they were amazed that this very small liner was still afloat while the great and mighty Andrea Doria, being a much larger and newer ship had sunk so fast. They asked themselves “How can such a small ship have done that?”

Stockholm enters New York

Stockholm enters New York harbor 27 July 1956

At first the Italian Line approached Swedish-American Line for an out of court settlement, which SAL obviously rejected, knowing well that the collision was caused due to negligence by a the crew of the Andrea Doria. Thus the case went to court.

During the long court case it was revealed that officers aboard Andrea Doria had used improper radar procedures, and that a decision had been made which resulted for the ship to turn suddenly to port (the left) moments prior to the collision, rather than to starboard (the right) which would have been protocol, or as it is known the official Maritime Law of the “Rule of the Road” when a ship is close by and in the circumstances as they were shown on the radar on board Andrea Doria at the time. Even though due to the fog, visibility was poor and it did not help the situation that night, especially for Andrea Doria as she was still in the fog band, while Stockholm was outside of this band and could not as yet see Andrea Doria, except on their radar. With Andrea Doria having turned to port Stockholm rammed Andrea Doria forward amidships on the starboard side, meaning that Andrea Doria quickly started to flood her engine room.

Thus we have seen some of the main reasons how and why the collision came about, but there were other facts that the enquiry later revealed, and some of these were as follows:
1) Andrea Doria departed her homeport with a problem with her steering gear.
2) Tragically some of the watertight bulkheads on board Andrea Doria were non-operational at the time. Thus she flooded rapidly and she sank some 10 hours later, which she may not have done had the watertight bulkheads been fully operational.
3) The enquiry also decided that Stockholm also had to take a small measure of responsibility, such as “the non use of the fog horn,” even though she was not in the fog at the time, but would enter it in due course. Andrea Doria was hidden inside the fog, but Stockholm was always aware that Andrea Doria was there and that they were running parallel. Thus at the time all was well, while both ships were on their “original headings.” At the time that meant that there was no emergency whatsoever – until Captain Calamai suddenly and illegally changed his course to port.
4) Another mention made in the enquiry’s reports is that both ships continued at speeds that were considered too fast for the conditions considering the circumstances. Andrea Doria was going near full speed at 21 knots and the Stockholm at a slower 18 knots.

Having taken in considerations of all the facts, the judgment deemed that the Captain of Andrea Doria, that is to say the Italian Line, would have to take the major share of the blame, considering the many errors that were made on board Andrea Doria and considering the other problems the ship had.

Although there were 40 (some state 46) lives lost from the Italian liner, thankfully the vast majority of passengers and crew survived the horrid collision.

Although the Italian Line was to pay for Stockholm’s bow, the Swedish-American Line graciously agreed to cover the $1 million replacement of the ship’s bow, leaving the Italian Line with the cost of a US$30 million loss for Andrea Doria and having to deal with the huge cost regarding human financial issues in Europe and in the Americas.

Stockholm in dry dock

Above: Second Officer Lars Enestrom takes a good look at the damaged bow of his ship in dry-dock after some of the damaged part had been cut away. Soon she would be like new again and back at sea! Below: another view of the sheered off bow of the Stockholm again with some of the damage cut away.


Stockholm’s bow was completely, quickly and superbly repaired at the Bethlehem Steel Company Shipbuilding Division in Brooklyn New York. Just over three months later Stockholm returned to operating her regular schedule.

Despite her success as a cruise ship and her amazing survival after the collision with Andrea Doria, those among SAL’s management who had fought for a larger ship had not given up. They got their way with the building of two new ships of a larger size. First was the 21,141 ton M.S. Kungsholm. The order was placed with the Dutch Shipyard De Schelde in The Netherlands and she was completed on 9 October, 1953. Next SAL decided to build a slightly larger version in 1954 and ordered the 23,191 ton M.S. Gripsholm, to be built by the Italian Ansaldo Shipyards. She was completed and delivered in April 1957. With the arrival of these two elegant and sleek twin funnelled liners, Swedish America Line had returned to their old days of operating modern large ships with their famed superior accommodations and grandiose public venues. Thus the smaller  Stockholm remained the “odd ship” of the fleet. Within two years after returning to service, in 1959, SAL decided to sell the “odd ship” of the line and she was placed on the market. She has passed through a number of owners and reconfigurations, but today at age 68, she is still sailing and has had the last laugh on those on the Swedish-American Lines’ staff who never wanted her in the first place. Stockholm has had more than nine lives!

The Unique Tale of the S.S.Warrimoo

(Hat tip: “Gordon K.”)


The crew had a hell of a New Years Eve party! After they sobered up, they wondered where the last two days had disappeared !

The passenger steamer S.S. Warrimoo was quietly knifing its way through the waters of the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver to Australia. The navigator had just finished working out a star fix and brought the master, Captain John Phillips, the result. The Warrimoo’s position was LAT 0ş 31′ N and LON 179ş 30′ W. The date was 30 December 1899.

“Know what this means?” First Mate Payton broke in, “We’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line”. Captain Phillips was prankish enough to take full advantage of the opportunity for achieving the navigational freak of a lifetime. He called his navigators to the bridge to check and  double check the ships’ position. He changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark. Then he adjusted the engine speed.

The calm weather and clear night worked in his favor.

At midnight the S.S. Warrimoo lay on the Equator at exactly the point where it crossed the International Date Line!

The consequences of this bizarre position were many. The forward part (bow) of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere and the middle of summer. The rear (stern) was in the Northern Hemisphere and in the middle of winter. The date in the aft part of the ship was 31 December 1899. Forward it was 1 January 1900.
This ship was therefore not only in two different days, two different months, two different years, and two different seasons, but in two different centuries – all at the same time!


Add yours →

  1. Very good entry. The most information I have ever read on the Andrea. The story of Linda I had NEVER heard, amazing. Enjoyed the read, Engineers will try, will swear to make the unsinkable, but nature, the SEA and human error seems to always find a way to outwit the engineer . Thanks for the education!


  2. Have really enjoyed your postings on 1956 Packards and ocean liners. I share your passion for both (with my partner, I own a 56 Patrician and a 56 Four-Hundred/soon-to-be Esquire replica). I’m the guy who came up with the “Esquire Owner’s Supplement.”

    Here’s an assignment. Why not do one of your quality articles on the Ile de France and her debut with Hollywood in the film “The Last Voyage.” There was an excellent article in LIFE right after the release of the film in the very late fifties. If you don’t know the film, GET IT TOMORROW!


  3. I recently came upon your website as a result of an online search about shipwrecks.
    You have some interesting and well-illustrated stories that show your passion for history;
    however, your story of the SS Andrea Doria tragedy does need some revision and accuracy
    in its telling as you are leaving out more recent information about the analysis of the collision and
    where the fault mainly can be placed.

    In fact, third-officer Johan Carstens- from the MS Stockholm-is probably most to blame for this collision.
    He was alone on the bridge of his ship, that late evening of the collision, and apparently misread
    his radar scale. He did chart his radar readings which later vanished after the collision.
    He also denied the existence of fog which is factually false. There was, indeed, much fog on that
    particular late evening. Both ships were traveling too fast. The Andrea Doria had cut speed, but not
    enough; the Stockholm did not cut speed at all. Essentially, it was human error that caused the collision.
    And I can understand why one man does not want to admit fault for such a tragedy.

    All the most recent reviews of the collision, using all available information taken from every available
    record and reconstruction, does indicate that the MS Stockholm (particularly third-officer Carstens) bears
    much, but not all, of the blame (and, sadly for him, the burden) for the resulting turn of events that 25th of July.

    The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy located at Kings Point, New York teaches the above version
    as the true cause of the collision based on their detailed analysis of data now available for usage.
    In fact, they hold true that the Andrea Doria’s Captain Calamai was unjustly blamed and never
    vindicated until after his death.

    This was an all-around tragedy for everyone concerned and involved, but the full truth does need
    to be told about this part of maritime history.

    Liked by 1 person

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