The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria: The Sinking of the World’s Most Glamorous Ship

Written by Penny Wilson
Review by G. J. Berger

This non-fiction account opens with the post-WWII Italian Line proudly constructing and outfitting its most luxurious passenger ship, the Andrea Doria. Three years later, on its 51st westward crossing, over 1300 passengers looked forward to a delightful passage. They ranged from the famous returning from vacations (composer Michael Stoller, Cary Grant’s wife) to those seeking a new life in the U.S.

On the night of July 25, 1956, the ocean south of Nantucket was warm, still, and blanketed by a pea-soup fog. Many ships pass through here in both directions on their runs between New York and Europe. Now the Andrea Doria and a smaller passenger ship Stockholm closed on each other at a combined speed of almost 40 knots. Both ships had radar, fog horns, lookouts, navigators alert to the conditions, and smooth-running engines. Yet the bow of Stockholm crashed deep into the side of the Italian liner. Mortally wounded, the Andrea Doria listed and slowly sank. The Stockholm managed to limp into New York.

The human errors and decisions leading to the collision, the chaos of struggling for life on tilting, slippery oil and water-covered surfaces, and the near and long-term aftermaths for passengers and crew are superbly woven together. The authors deftly present the technical aspects but never stray far from the children, women, and men who suffered through this fateful night. Hence, the whole story resonates with real human emotions. An Appendix of sources and extensive reading list give testament to the authors’ multi-year research. Highly recommended for anyone interested in what happened to the Andrea Doria and any reader seeking an engrossing account of an “it could never happen” ocean disaster.