The Andrea Doria shipwreck will never have its own Travel Channel special. A visitor finds no reefs thronged with colorful sea creatures, no bikini-clad sirens frolicking in warm aquamarine water. But what the Doria does have is mystique. Its reputation as the Mount Everest of scuba diving dates back to a foggy evening in 1956, when the 700-foot Italian luxury liner collided with another ship, killing 51 people and sending the Doria to the ocean floor, 250 feet beneath the notoriously turbulent waters that swirl a hundred miles off the eastern tip of Long Island. Worldwide media coverage quickly drew undersea adventurers. Those who reached the Doria in its early days surfaced with tales of a site that looked every bit the part of a romantic Hollywood shipwreck. The liner became a must-do for serious technical divers, even as new technology made deeper wrecks accessible—and as the Doria claimed the lives of 15 victims over the years. Now, with the boat breaking down and new points of entry opening up, divers are drawn by the chance to enter previously blocked compartments, and by the knowledge that each season may be the Doria’s last. “It’s just a matter of time before she implodes,” says Richie Kohler, who has dived the Doria 126 times and leads expeditions there. “For divers who have been waiting until they get more vacation dollars saved up, well, I’d say it’s now or maybe never. –Brendan Spiegel
1. If natural deterioration progressed this winter as expected, the cargo holds—said to be laden with the stuff of scuba lore, like jewels and 50-year-old bottles of whiskey—may be open for the first time.
2. The Doria’s engine room is another never-before-seen feature that divers hope to glimpse this summer. Until now, access has been blocked by the ship’s steel hull, which is splitting.
3. When divers emerge from the Doria–usually out of Gimbel’s Hole–they face strong, unpredictable currents capable of sweeping them miles from their boats.
4. Scoring china from the vestiges of the first-class dining room is a major coup. But souvenir hunting can be deadly. “We’d risk our lives to find the saucer that matched a teacup,” Kohler says.
Illustration by Emily Cooper
- Nat Geo Expeditions