The Titanic disaster of 1912 was still making waves when on 29 May 1914, the RMS Empress of Ireland collided with the Norwegian coal freighter Storstad in the Saint Louis River at Pointe-au-Père, Quebec. It occurred around 0200 in the morning. Storstad hit the starboard side, causing severe damage. Empress began to list and quickly fill with water. Portholes had not been secured before leaving port so many were open (many passengers complained of poor ventilation) so that allowed a lot of water to enter. Many in the lower decks drowned from water coming in from the open portholes.
Also failure to close the watertight doors led to the quick sinking. Three lifeboats were launched quickly with passengers and crew that were in the upper deck cabins able to get away but as the ship listed further starboard, the other lifeboats could not be used. Ten minutes after the collision, Empress lurched violently on the starboard side allowing 700 passengers and crew to crawl out of portholes and decks on her side. Then 15 minutes later, after it briefly looked like she might have run aground, the hull sank dumping all the people left on her into the icy water. When the final tally was done, 1,012 people lost there lives. 465 survived. Many on the starboard side where asleep and likely drowned in their cabins.
The official enquiry, which began on 16 June 1914, was headed by Lord Mersey who had previously headed the British Titanic enquiry (he would also lead up the enquiry into Lusitania later). Two very different accounts emerged of the collision from the Storstad and Empress. At the end of the day, the commission determined that when Storstad changed course, it caused the collision. The Norwegians did not accept the verdict and held their own enquiry which exonerated the captain and crew of the Storstad. Canadian Pacific, which owned the now sunk Empress of Ireland, pursued a legal claim and won. The Norwegian owners countersued but in the end the liabilities forced them to sell Storstad to put money in the trust funds.
What happened to Empress, though not receiving the same attention as Titanic, was to change ship design. The reverse slanting bow was dangerous in ship-to-ship collisions resulting in below the waterline damage. Bows were redesigned so the energy of the collision would be minimized below the surface. Longitudinal bulkheads were discontinued as they trapped water beneath them causing the ship to list and capsizing. Needless to say portholes were to be secured from that point on (in fact nearly all cruise ships use decoratives that can never be opened). The wreck today has been salvaged many times and is now the only underwater historic site in Canada. The wreck is in shallow water (130 feet) but is notably dangerous dive due to the cold waters, currents, and often impaired visibility.
On the night of 25 July 1956 the passenger liner Andrea Doria would collide with the Swedish passenger liner Stockholmoff Nantucket resulting in 51 deaths. It also resulted in one of the largest maritime rescues in modern history.
The Andrea Doria was considered one of the most beautiful of her day, She was not a large ship at 697 feet nor the fastest of the time. With three outdoor swimming pools, paintings and murals that got her dubbed a “floating art gallery,” many passengers loved traveling aboard her. The Andrea Doria had radar and with 11 watertight compartments was considered safe. Its captain, Piero Calamai, was highly regarded mariner and veteran of two world wars. The Doria was returning from Europe having departed Italy on 17 July, was after making some stops, on its way to New York. It would be its 101sttransatlantic crossing.
Aboard the ship were 1,134 passengers that were a varied lot of business travelers, those vacationing, and Italian immigrants. A crew of 572 was aboard making it a total of 1, 706 people aboard the Andrea Doria. The ship’s crew was used to the transatlantic voyages and thought nothing would be any different this time. The sea lanes off the Northeast coast of the United States are heavily trafficked, so most crews are good about watching for other vessels, Radar made that much easier for ships as they would detect another ship even if there was heavy fog. The Swedish passenger liner Stockholm, returning to its home port of Gothenburg, had departed earlier that day from New York. Both ships were coming in opposite directions off Nantucket.
There was heavy fog, but Captain Calamai did not reduce speed that much so as to stay on schedule. The Stockholm was actually steaming north of the recommended eastbound route hoping to cut down its journey time home. Neither ship was following established rules as they approached each other at around 22:30 (10:30 p.m.). Around 22:45 (10:45 p.m.) the Andrea Doria picked up a blip on its radar that was the Stockholm. Third Officer Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen was the watch officer on the Stockholm and picked up the Doria on its own radar as well. Carstens plotted a course that would have the Stockholm pass the Doria port-to-port. Captain Calamai on the Doria decided on a starboard-to-starboard maneuver. However, one of them misread the radar and steered his ship toward the other.
At 23:10 (11:15 p.m.) Captain Calamai spotted the Stockholm’s lights through the fog. A bridge officer shouted the ship was coming at them. Calamai ordered a hard left turn to outrun the Stockholm. Carstens once he saw the Doria attempted to reverse propellers and slow down but it was too late. The Stockholm crashed into the starboard side of the Doria like a battering ram penetrating 30 feet in the hull snapping bulkheads. When it broke loose, it left a large gaping hole in the Andrea Doria. Passengers on the Doria felt a huge jolt followed by the sound of clanging metal. An orchestra in one of the lounges were thrown from the stage by the force of the crash.
Five perished on the Stockholm and forty-six on the Andrea Doria. One Italian immigrant with her children were killed. One man saw the exterior wall of his room was sheared off and his wife, in the bed next to him, gone. One famous story concerns Linda Morgan. The crash killed her stepfather and stepsister, but Morgan’s bed had been lifted and thrown into the Stockholm. Her only injury was a broken arm.
The Stockholm was damaged but not in danger of sinking. The Andrea Doria was another matter. The Doria suffered critical and was listing 20 degrees starboard allowing seawater to spill through the watertight compartments. There was nothing that could be done so Captain Calamai had to abandon ship. However the list was so bad that the eight portside lifeboats could not be launched. The one starboard side craft remaining could only carry 1,000 people. Radio calls went out at once asking for help from any nearby ships.
“Need lifeboats-as many as possible–can’t use our lifeboats.”
The Stockholm took on passengers but others in the area soon answered the call. A small freighter Cape Ann arrived at 00:30 (12:30 a.m.) Two U.S. Navy ships arrived as well. Finally, the Ile de France, a massive ocean liner, arrived beside the Doria. With its floodlights it lit up the darkness and began making rescues with its lifeboats. Aboard the Doria, it was quite dangerous. Some passengers were trapped in their cabins and many had to brave smoke-filled hallways and knee-deep water to get to the main deck. The list though had turned the main deck into a steep and slippery slope. Many had to slide down on the starboard side to get to the lifeboats. The rescue was a massive undertaking and took several hours until by 05:30 (5:30 a.m.)
753 were aboard the Ile de France and everyone else scattered on the four other ships and Stockhold. Captain Calamai was the last to leave and seemed initially to want to go down with his ship. The last lifeboat with crew on it, refused to leave him behind. The rescue fleet then made its way to New York. The Andrea Doria capsized, flooded, and sank at 10:09 (10:09 a.m.). Investigations began right away with both ship owners accusing the other of being responsible. Depositions and court testimony had begun but a court trial was averted with an out of court settlement. Both shipowners contributed to a settlement fund for the victims and absorbed costs of their own damages. The Stockholmwas repaired and put back into service, The owners of the Italian line had to absorb the $30 million loss of the Andrea Doria.
A U.S. Congressional hearing later heard testimony from a variety of experts, witnesses, and survivors. It provided some determination though to this day arguments as to who was responsible and other factors in the sinking remain debated. Everyone agrees that heavy fog played a critical factor in what happened. Other factors that played a role are cited as follows:
The failure of the Andrea Doria’s officers to follow proper radar procedures or accurately plot using the chartroom equipment to correctly determine its position and that of the other ship. This would have led them to determine the Stockholm’s correct speed and course.
The Andrea Doria was traveling too fast in heavy fog. This was a common practice but violated navigation rules which required speed reduction in these circumstances. In these instance, speed would have been reduced substantially or to completely stop in heavy fog.
The ballast of the Andrea Doria was not properly maintained. The fuel tanks were half empty and had no seawater pumped in to make up for the spent fuel. This resulted in a greater list and also violated the Italian line’s directives on this issue. Also the greater list rendered the lifeboats on the port side inoperable.
A missing watertight door may have contributed to its sinking as well by letting in more water.
The navigation officer on the Stockholm misread the radar thinking he was 15 miles away but instead 5 miles. He also failed to get guidance from a senior officer as required by liner rules. Also this was his first time working the watch alone on a passenger liner.
Captain Piero Calamai would retire and never command a ship at sea again. He used to love the sea but after the sinking hated it. He was vilified for his role in the tragedy. He died in 1972 but sadly never learned that his role in the disaster had undergone a major retrofit. Based on the reconstruction of events by retired US Naval engineer John C. Carrothers, it was determined that the Stockholm’s Third Officer was responsible. A letter to this effect had been sent to him by Carrothers but he died and was never read by him.
In the aftermath of the collision, several rule changes were made so such a tragedy could not occur again. Since radar played a prominent role, shipping lines had to improve training so operators of this equipment could accurately determine the correct distance a ship or other object was on the screen. Rather than rely exclusively on radar equipment, radio contact between approaching ships were required. And new guidance was given to avoid a head-on situation, to turn starboard (right). The sinking of the Andrea Doria was the worst maritime disaster in territorial waters since the Eastland sank in the Chicago River in 1915.
Today the wreck lies in 160 feet of water putting it out of the reach of recreational divers. Many professionals have dived down and come back with pictures of the wreck. Even then, diving to this wreck requires both skill and precision since it requires a mixture of gasses and staged decompression. While initial dives early after its demise showed it in mostly good condition, in recent years the decay has become pronounced and in poor condition. Also due to the difficulties of diving to and from the wreck, 22 divers have died between 1956-2017.
It will be the first time the Italian liner’s horn has been heard since it blew on sinking 65 years ago. The 213m ship had collided with Swedish liner the Stockholm 100 miles off Nantucket in 1956. Forty-six of the Andrea Doria’s 1706 passengers died, along with five of the Stockholm’s crew. Eight survivors are set to join technical divers, maritime historians and restorers for the 65th anniversary event, which will be livestreamed for the public on Facebook Live. The restored Kockumation horn is 1.2m long and its trumpet 60cm in diameter. Attached to an iron replica of a mast section, it weighs 227kg. It was discovered in 2016 by a dive team led by Joe Mazraani, captain of the Atlantic Wreck Salvage dive vessel Tenacious, which has carried out annual expeditions to the Andrea Doria since 2010. He spotted it beneath the mast and it was brought up the following summer.
The Titanic: Honour & Glory exhibition at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum are holding special fun-filled workshops for families to enjoy every Wednesday at 11am. The activities will include a range of arts and crafts and a free Monsters of the Deep trail, where children can take an adventure around the Museum, solving clues about real mythical monsters of the sea. Deborah Fox, senior curator with Museums Worcestershire said: “We’ve been delighted by the response to the exhibition, it has been amazing and is proving incredibly popular! We want to bring the history to life for our family audiences this summer and so we hope the drop-in workshops will be an opportunity for children to understand more about the famous ocean liner with craft and creative activities which they can take away with them”
The Chinese Titanic is being built near the city of Daying. It will be 269 meters long, 28 meters wide and 3,000 square metres. tons of steel. However, the ship will not be able to swim. It will remain on the beach as the focal point and major tourist attraction of Sichuan Amusement Park. The replica is supposed to be an accurate representation of the Titanic – from the sumptuous interiors to the dinner menu. The project to create a copy of the legendary ship lasted for several years and was initially announced for completion in 2017. Work was suspended for some time due to financial disputes, but in April, the project’s Facebook page said construction of the ninth floor of the building was underway.
Sadly Jackie Mason passed away recently. He was truly one of a kind and was able to get laughs easily. Here is his on the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It is a rare moment when the guest actually one ups the talented Carson. Enjoy! RIP Jackie Mason.
When the historic passenger vessel S.S. Keewatin first went through the Welland Canal, it had to be cut in half. The 106-metre-long ship was too long to fit into the lift locks of the canal in 1907 when it was on its way to Owen Sound from its birthplace in Glasgow’s River Clyde to start a 60-year career as a Great Lakes passenger vessel for Canadian Pacific Railway Upper Lake Service. Now, more than 9,000 people in this Georgian Bay port have signed a petition asking the federal government to prevent Keewatin from taking a second cruise on the Welland Canal. They want the vessel to remain as a museum destination here, rather than as a museum destination at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes on the Kingston waterfront.
I last wrote about SS Duke of Lancaster back in 2014 when Douglas Wooley was contemplating its use for Titanic. Nothing came of that and a long series of legal challenges have continued with the former luxury ship beached near Mostyn Docks on River Dee. It still sits rusting away despite plans to use it as a floating leisure and retail complex. A new idea has emerged, reports iNews, of using the ship for “Zombie Experiences.”
Expected to open next year (no doubt in time for Halloween), the ship will be used to allow thrill seekers to roam about and of course encounter zombies in the process. Actors are being sought now to play certain roles, from zombies to doctors, as the ship will be overrun by zombies. It will apparently only be open weekends. Zombie Infection, the company behind it, promises it will bring new glory to this old ships.
“The impressive ocean liner has seen its fair share of disappointment, so it’s with great pleasure that after safety and logistic improvements, a lot of paint, love and affection, we are now able to bring this amazing venue to our international fan base and beyond. We want to assure the local and national population that we will, in partnership with the owners, take good care of her and bring her back to her well and truly back to her glory days.”
From the Belfast Telegraph: Following the award of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £11.5m and a further investment by Northern Ireland’s Department for Enterprise Trade and Investment, repairs to halt the deterioration of World War One light cruiser were completed earlier this year making the ship safe for the next stage of restoration. National Museum of the Royal Navy Chief of Staff Captain John Rees OBE has been leading the complex funding and restoration programme in partnership with the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
He says: “HMS Caroline is a living legend. We are breathing new life into what is an internationally significant piece of world history. We are particularly looking forward to the ship being ready for public opening on June 1 2016. This will mark the first stage of a series of phased openings. The second and third phases will see the ship dry docked for hull conservation works in the winter and then the completion of onshore facilities.
HMS Caroline will open on 1 June 2016 to visitors until November. Then it leaves for a dry dock inspection and hull conservation work returning in December to new position closer to the Pump Station and facing the sea.