Collision Course: The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm

Collision Course: The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm

by Alvin Moscow


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504049344
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Pages: 364
Sales rank: 285,873
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Alvin Moscow worked as a journalist for the New York Times and the Associated Press, where he covered the court hearings that sought to determine the cause of the crash of two ocean liners, the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm—the subject of his critically acclaimed New York Times–bestselling book Collision Course. He has written and collaborated on fourteen other books, including The Rockefeller Inheritance, Merchants of Heroin, and autobiographies of Richard M. Nixon, Patricia Hearst, William S. Paley, and Harold Geneen. He currently lives in Nevada.

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Collision Course

The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm

By Alvin Moscow


Copyright © 1981 Alvin Moscow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3150-9



The North Atlantic, like all oceans, is trackless and free, a no-man's body of water beset by storms and ice in the winter and storms and fog in the summer. This mighty ocean has been made safe for travel by the genius of man. Yet in his frailty man must take care, for despite all the electronic wonders devised through the years of scientific progress, periodically the sea takes its toll.

On a Wednesday, the 25th day of July, 1956, at 2:40 in the afternoon, Superior Captain Piero Calamai, who had devoted thirty-nine of the fifty-eight years of his life to the sea, sensed fog in the air. He made straightaway for the bridge of his ship, the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria.

The captain, a tall, well-built man whose swarthy suntanned face was dominated by an aquiline nose, was credited by his crew with a sixth sense by which he could smell fog on the horizon before it became evident to the men on watch. It was an unusual occurrence when Captain Calamai had to be summoned to the bridge because of fog. The captain, like masters of all ships, had standing orders that he be called in the event of any kind of reduced visibility at sea. He seemed always to arrive there, though, just before he was needed. The simple explanation for Captain Calamai's "sixth sense" probably was that he was a worrier. He never was away from the bridge of his ship for long. Of the multiple duties incumbent upon the master of a ship, Captain Calamai favored those of chief navigator.

The aloneness forced upon a man by the sea suited the Italian captain. A shy, introverted person, he least enjoyed the social obligations of a captain of a luxury liner. Because he disliked cocktails, liquor and small talk, he discharged his social obligations to celebrities and important passengers aboard by showing them the bridge of his beautiful ship during the morning hours. He preferred conducting a tour of the ship's bridge and instruments to acting as host at the usual cocktail party in the captain's cabin. Neither did he dine with passengers at a "captain's table." He ate with his senior officers in a small room off the First-Class Dining Room.

Nor was he a strong disciplinarian. He was too sensitive and benevolent a man to impose his will upon a subordinate. Although a major part of the time of a ship's master is spent as an administrator overseeing the smooth running of his little community bounded by the rails of his ship, he may impose his discipline through his second-in-command who holds the rank of staff captain or chief mate. Captain Calamai availed himself of his staff captain in disciplinary cases. He never was known to chastise and openly embarrass a subordinate. Instead, he would take an erring man aside when absolutely necessary for private fatherly advice. And his men loved him and respected him for it. Those who served under him knew he devoted himself selflessly to his ship and that in his innate honesty he expected the same of the men serving him. The only criticism admitted by some of his officers was that perhaps Captain Calamai was "a little mild."

That he was an excellent seaman and navigator with a sure hand, none of his men doubted. He had served on and commanded large, fast ships of the Italian Line passenger fleet for almost all of his life. He had been commander of the Andrea Doria, Italy's finest, since her maiden voyage in January, 1953.

Captain Calamai saw the unmistakable signs of fog on the horizon as he stood on one of the bridge wings of his ship. The bridge wings, like the wings of an airplane, extended from either side of the wheelhouse to a point slightly beyond the hull of the ship, and being near the top of the ship's superstructure afforded the captain an unrestricted view of the sea before him. Fog was not unusual in the waters off the east coast of the United States for the month of July. The question was how dense and how deep the fog was for this voyage. Captain Calamai often had stood eighteen to twenty-four hours of continuous watch on the final day's voyage into New York. He was not the kind of man who could leave his bridge at such times to his second-in-command, as did most ship captains who would limit their own watch duty in fog to eight or twelve hours.

Depending upon the density of fog, Captain Calamai knew that the law required that he reduce the speed of his fast ship. He knew equally well that any reduction in speed meant a further delay in arriving in New York, where he was scheduled to bring the Andrea Doria into the harbor at six A.M. the following day. Although the Italian Line, like all shipping companies, never instructs a captain to break the law to arrive on schedule, Captain Calamai knew, as do all captains, that late arrivals are costly. Fuel costs, the pay of some two hundred longshoremen hired the day before to be at the dock to unload the ship, and the public relations of bringing passengers to their destination on time — all add up in the costly operation of a passenger ship.

Approaching the fog ahead, the Doria was then about one hour behind schedule because of a storm two nights before. Her twin turbine engines were on FULL SPEED AHEAD, pounding out 35,000 horsepower. The turbines fed by high-compression steam turned the ship's two giant propellers, each 16 feet in diameter, 134 revolutions per minute. It was a tremendous amount of power and every bit of it was needed to push this colossal ship, 697 feet long and 11 decks high, through the ocean at her full cruising speed of 23 knots. It was necessary to maintain that speed constantly from Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea to the Ambrose Lightship at the entrance to New York Harbor in order to bring the ship to port on schedule.

But this day, July 25, was the last day of the voyage. Most of the 4,000-mile voyage from her home port of Genoa was behind the Doria. Captain Calamai had taken the shortest route across the North Atlantic, the Great Circle route, passing through the Azore Islands and heading almost due west for the Nantucket Lightship, which served as a substitute landfall for the United States. During the winter months, the Andrea Doria like other Italian Line ships traveled a longer, more southerly route in an effort to follow the sun across the Atlantic. But in the summer, the Great Circle route offered sunshine as well as economy of fuel consumption. Fuel consumption always has been a major concern of shipowners. The Andrea Doria, for instance, burned ten to eleven tons of fuel oil every hour underway, the equivalent of what the average homeowner uses to heat his home for two years. Now, toward the end of her voyage, the Andrea Doria was riding light, with many of her fuel tanks empty, rolling more perceptibly with the waves. The previous day Captain Calamai had radioed ahead to New York his request for 2,200 tons of oil to refuel the ship for the return voyage.

Directly ahead, beyond the fog, some 165 miles and less than eight hours' sailing time, lay the Nantucket Lightship for which the Doria was being steered. The red-hulled little vessel was anchored in the ocean some 50 miles off Nantucket, beyond the treacherous shoal waters which extended from the shore of the Island. It was the gateway of the North Atlantic for shipping to and from the United States. For the Andrea Doria, the small lightship represented the first sighting of the United States and the last lap of the voyage off the shores of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Long Island to New York Harbor.

For another ship, a glistening all-white vessel which resembled a long, sleek pleasure yacht more than a liner carrying 534 passengers on a year-round transatlantic schedule to Scandinavia, the Nantucket Lightship represented the point of departure from the United States. This ship, the Swedish-American liner Stockholm, was heading due east toward the Nantucket Lightship as the Andrea Doria was approaching it from the opposite direction. For the Stockholm, whose white was broken only by a single yellow funnel, mast and kingposts, it was the first day out of New York. The Swedish ship, just three inches short of 525 feet from her sharply raked bow to her round stern, had left her pier at Fifty-seventh Street in New York at 11:31 that morning. The day had ben hot, muggy and overcast in New York and not much better out at sea. A haze blurred the rays of the summer sun, yet there was no fog as the Stockholm sailed away from New York. The Swedish ship had followed the French liner Ile de France, which had left her pier at Forty-eighth Street at the same time, down the Hudson River and out to sea. But the leviathan black and white French ship pulled steadily away from the Stockholm at sea, her engines building up to 22 knots. The Stockholm could at best do 18 or 19 knots. It was about 2:40 in the afternoon that the Ile de France faded from sight in the haze ahead as the Stockholm plowed through the sea toward the Nantucket Lightship. Her course was 90° true on the compass, or due east, designed to take her a mile off the Nantucket Lightship, from where she would swing north toward Scandinavia. It was her usual route, the shortest and most economical for a ship going to northern Europe.

Neither the Stockholm nor Andrea Doria was under any compulsion, legal or otherwise, to follow the so-called "recognized tracks" across the ocean, for neither the Swedish nor Italian lines were members of the North Atlantic Track Agreement. The Agreement was purely a voluntary arrangement among nine British, one United States, one Belgian, one French and one Dutch passenger steamship company. No government was a party to it. Nor did it apply to freighters, oilers, or any type of ship other than passenger vessels of the member companies. Even to the passenger ships of these companies, all plying between New York and English Channel ports, the tracks were not compulsory. The Track Agreement merely urges those passenger ships to use the routes "so far as circumstances permit."

Thus, on July 25, the Stockholm headed eastward on the usual westbound track which the Andrea Doria was following from the opposite direction toward the Nantucket Lightship. Yet in this there was nothing unusual, for each ship was plying the same route it had always followed.

The Andrea Doria, only three and a half years old, was a maiden in the elite society of luxury passenger ships. To many she was the most beautiful ship afloat. The Italian Line, in designing this ship which was to mark the rebirth of the Italian merchant marine after the second World War, decided wisely not to compete with the United States and Britain for size and speed of their ships. Instead, the Andrea Doria was imbued with Italy's matchless heritage of beauty, art and design. The 29,100 gross ton ship, 697 feet long and 90 feet wide, of course was no slowpoke midget. She was among the largest and fastest ships of the world. But there was something special about her. The Italian Line itself tried to put into words that special something which marked the Andrea Doria apart among ships of the world. The Italian Line said:

First of all, a ship that is worthy of the name must be a SHIP. She must be able to function as a huge machine ... to provide light and heat and numerous essential hotel services to her passengers. She must be able to cleave the ocean waves efficiently and safely, no matter what the weather conditions. She must get her passengers where they want to go with reasonable dispatch, adhering to a schedule announced in advance.

But today a ship must be more than that. For the period of her voyage she must be a whole way of life for her passengers. She must provide them with an experience that will somehow be different and better than a comparable experience they could have anywhere else. This experience must be one they will enjoy while they have it ... and one they will never forget as long as they live.

The Andrea Doria is, we think, unique. She was designed to be a huge, completely efficient machine, a real ship. She was also designed as a living testament to the importance of beauty in the everyday world.

Works of art were everywhere on the ship, particularly in the public rooms, and there were thirty-one different public rooms, providing an average of 40 square feet of recreational space for each of the 1,250 passengers the Andrea Doria could accommodate. Italian artists had created within the ship a small art world in murals and panels of rare woods, in ceramics, mirrors, mosaics and crystals. Four artist-designers were commissioned each to design his idea of a superlative luxury suite consisting of a bedroom, sitting room, powder room, baggage room and bath. The four de luxe first-class suites on the ship's Foyer Deck were completely different. One was wild in a design of blue mythological figures floating on a white background which covered the furniture as well as the walls. Another was sedate in the finest of expensive tastes. But all were modern, unusual and luxurious with thick plush rugs, heavy draperies and push-button conveniences. These cabins were the ultimate in luxury.

The rest of the ship was less luxurious only in degree, according to first, second or third class of accommodations. The entire ship was air-conditioned. Each of the three classes had its own motion picture theater for daily movies. Each had its own swimming pool and surrounding recreational area. In fact, when built, the Andrea Doria was the only ship with three outdoor swimming pools emphasizing outdoor living on the sunshine route of the Italian Line from the Mediterranean to New York. The swimming pools, each one decorated in distinctive ceramic tiles, were terraced on three decks of the ship's stern in country club settings of tables, sun umbrellas, pool bars and white-waistcoated waiters.

The ship itself was a work of art with exterior lines so graceful that the full length of the huge vessel from its sharply angled bow to its spoon-shaped overhanging stern seemed to thrust forward like a poised missile. Horizontal lines of the ship were rounded and soft while all vertical lines leaned back toward the stern, giving the impression of windswept movement. Her black hull and white superstructure, made of special alloys to minimize top weight, were topped by one slender mast and a single elliptical funnel which bore the red, white and green colors of Italy. Inside, the décor was modern but a gentle contemporary modern predominated by sensible, simple furniture, wood paneling, indirect lighting and the various original art creations. The most prominent art display, priceless in itself, was a mural covering more than 1,600 feet of wall space in the First-Class Lounge. Painted by Salvatore Fiume on eight wall surfaces, it surrounded the lounge with a three-dimensional art gallery showing the painting and sculpture of Italy's masters: Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Cellini and others. At the focal point of the lounge, in magnificent perspective to the mural, stood a giant bronze statue of the sixteenth-century admiral, Andrea Doria, staring sternly ahead, in full armor and cape, his right hand resting upon a sword half his own height. It was for him this ship was named.

Genoa, the home port of this ship, produced two of the world's greatest sea captains: Christopher Columbus and Andrea Doria. 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, Andrea Doria, who is credited as the first man to discover how to sail a ship against the wind, became Admiral of the Genoese Fleet and "father of his country." Like George Washington in the United States, Andrea Doria won independence from Spain for the republic of Genoa. After a long and harrowing career at sea and in politics, he retired to a monastery at the age of eighty-seven, only to be summoned to sea again to fight off the French who were attempting to annex Corsica. He led his fleet against the French and won again, returning to more acclaim from his countrymen in Genoa. He lived to the age of ninety-four, dying, it is said, only after he heard the news that his son had been killed in a campaign in Africa. But his name and reputation as well as his descendants and wealth lived on. Many ships were christened with his name following his death, including a small brig in the service of the American colonies revolting from British rule. The brig Andrea Doria was the first ship to be saluted by a foreign nation recognizing the sovereignty of the United States.

Like that of the Borghese, the name of Doria lived on through the centuries as one of the great family names of Italy and it was to Andrea Doria that the Italian Line returned when choosing a name fitting for the great ship it had designed after the second World War. The ship, whose new design was first tested in experimental tanks, was constructed in the famous Ansaldo Shipyards of Sestri, a suburb of Genoa, from 1949 to June 16, 1951, when, amid much fanfare, she was launched. Decorating the interior of this ship consumed another eighteen months and in December, 1952, she was taken out on her trial runs and tested at speeds in excess of 26 knots which well satisfied her owners.


Excerpted from Collision Course by Alvin Moscow. Copyright © 1981 Alvin Moscow. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

An Explanation7
1.A Calculated Risk13
2."Lights to Port"31
3."I Can See a Ship"61
4."Why Did She Turn So?"81
5."Shall I Ring the Alarm?"95
6."We're Going on a Picnic"109
7."We Need Boats"133
8."I Want to See the Captain"157
9."Send Down a Ladder"183
10."Tell Them I Did Everything I Could"199
11."My Schedule is Imperative"215
12."Seaworthiness is Nil"227
13."I'm Also Wondering About That"247
14."Do I Have to Answer?"273
15."I Loved the Sea--Now I Hate It"297
16.Salvaging the Doria311
17.Revisiting the Doria337

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Collision Course: The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
giftedteacher1 More than 1 year ago
This true story is a compelling tale of disaster, and one of the best books that I have read recently. You can feel the implacable might of the sea, the desperation of the passengers and crewmen, and the vagaries of fate that ended in survival or death. I highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
moxted More than 1 year ago
I would definitely buy from this seller again. Book arrived on time and in exactly the condition that was represented