Friday, April 21, 2006


Diver speaks on shipwreck


The Collegian
By Emma Straley
April 18, 2006

The lecture delivered by David Bright covered the history
and sinking of the Andrea Doria and the diving explorations
conducted on the luxury liner. PHOTO: Shawn Miller

Last Thursday, an audience of about 60 people had the opportunity to virtually explore the shipwreck of the Andrea Doria in the Hosler Building.

David Bright, president of Nautical Research Group Inc. and Penn State alumnus, gave the first in a three-part lecture series, "Lost at Sea."

Bright's lecture, "Andrea Doria: Dive to Adventure and Danger," showed video footage of different rooms like the first-class and tourist-class dining rooms on the ship.

Bright said the footage is a precursor for a Public Broadcasting Service special that will be shown later in spring.

The footage is unique because there is no access to some of the places it explores, Bright said.

The Andrea Doria, named after an Italian admiral, sank a little after 11 p.m. on July 25, 1956, about 40 miles southwest of the Nantucket coast. It took 11 hours before it finally sank after colliding with a ship, the Stockholm.

"We call it the Mount Everest of diving," Bright said.

He has done 120 dives on the Andrea Doria.

This is the first particular shipwreck that was televised, Bright said. Press from Boston and New York covered the sinking.

"The Andrea Doria was the epitome of all that was historic and beautiful in Italy," Bright said. "It represents a renaissance to the Italian people."

There were three different classes on the Andrea Doria: first class; the cabin class, or second class; and the tourist class, third class.

Tickets for third class were a little more than $100.

The Andrea Doria had the leading chefs in Italy working on it, Bright said.

Celebrities and political figures often took the Andrea Doria, Bright said. "It was the preferred ship of any Americans coming or going to Italy."

Bright said it wasn't meant to be the fastest ship, just the most beautiful, even though it went 25 knots.

The Andrea Doria was 700 feet long, 90 feet wide and 29,000 tons.

The two ships wrecked because at the time, there were no set lanes for ships, Bright said.

"It's more of a story about rescue than tragedy unlike other shipwrecks like the Titanic," Bright said.

The Andrea Doria was headed to New York City from Italy with 1,705 passengers onboard when the right side of the ship was struck by the Stockholm.

The collision caused a huge triangle-shaped hole, Bright said.

Because the ship sank on its right side, only the eight lifeboats from that side were used. They couldn't roll the other eight lifeboats from the left side, Bright said.

Only 46 people died from the Andrea Doria.

The Stockholm was headed into its homeport in Sweden with 1,200 passengers on board when the collision happened. The Stockholm never sank, and only five crewmen died.

"Where the collision happened is like the Time Square of the ocean, so other ships were able to come and help," Bright said.

Some of the deck chairs on the Andrea Doria were used as floatation devices for the passengers, Bright said. It took the Coast Guard about two weeks to clean up the wreckage, he added.

Bright said on the diving expeditions, they often pull up artifacts from the ship like rare artwork, mosaics, tapestries, fine china, wine bottles and cut crystal.

He donates all of his findings to museums for historical display, although he does get to keep some things for himself.

"I own the only two surviving lifeboats from the Doria," Bright said.

He also owns some pieces of the china from the ship and rare photographs.

"Each piece we find is a puzzle piece, and when you put them together, then we have a very clear historical understand of that ship," Bright said. "This is why many of the survivors consider me to be their best friend."

Bright personally narrated the virtual tour of the Andrea Doria.

A.J. Recupido (freshman-meteorology) said "his narration made it more personal."

Bright also studied other ships like the Titanic and the USS Monitor, a Civil War ironclad.

Bright is on the board of the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, and he also endows scholarships to the Penn State's swimming and diving team and to the biology department.

Alexandra Prokuda (junior-biology) said, "It was so interesting. I'm probably going to come back and see the other parts [of the lecture]."

The next two parts in the series will take place in the fall.

Lee Newsom, associate professor in anthropology, will give the lecture "A Tale of Three Shipwrecks: Ships of Blackbeard, Tristán de Luna, and Columbus."

Michael Tuttle (graduate-history) will give the lecture "The Serapis Project: Discovery of John Paul Jones' Conquest."


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