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October 1999 Vol. 14, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Doing It Deeper on the Doria

from the October, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Andrea Doria, that magnificent wreck off Nantucket, Massachusetts, claimed two more sport divers in July, making a total of 12 deaths since 1981. Three divers perished last year, the deadliest season thus far. Victims have generally been experienced divers, though many have had little deep-wreck experience. Up until a couple years ago, the charter boats Sea Hunter, Wahoo (516-928-3849), and Seeker (718-448-9745) all had the dubious distinction of having carried divers on the 11- hour Doria trip who didn’t make the return trip to Montauk. But the five victims who died this season and last were all diving off a single boat, the Seeker.

The Seeker’s resolute captain, Dan Crowell, says his crew and customers have a reputation of “pushing the edge of the envelope more than anyone else.” That may be part of the reason why Seeker divers have garnered more than their fair share of Doria trophies over the years, but it may also have contributed to the Seeker’s new moniker: “Morgue Boat.”

Regardless of how they get to the site, however, the Doria, an opulent, 700', 11-story vessel built in 1953 at a cost of more than $30 million, has become a real lure for divers. The ship’s been called the wreck divers’ Mt. Everest. During this year’s two-month midsummer season, half a dozen charter operators will offer more than 20 trips to the Doria, which sank off Nantucket on July 25, 1956, claiming at least 46 of the 1600 on board.

Salvager John Moyer, who has exclusive salvage rights to the vessel, has made more than a hundred Doria dives in the last 17 years. But he’s interested chiefly in large items and generally allows other divers to keep whatever small baubles they find. “Small” is hardly synonymous with “worthless,” however: a piece of the ship’s logoemblazoned, gold-rimmed dinnerware can bring up to $700 in the open market. There are also several safes and a host of art relics aboard.

Though divers are obviously enthralled by the Doria’s challenge, it’s a damn dangerous dive. The ship’s deep, the water cold, the currents strong. Sediment within the wreck is easily stirred up, clouding the water. The vessel’s hull is cloaked with nets commercial fishermen have left behind, and its labyrinthine passages are clogged with electrical wires. At 230'+, where the ship rests, summertime water temperatures hover in the mid-40s.

The dangers and deaths don’t seem to discourage divers. For thrill seekers, it may be the opposite as divers who have taken on the Doria eye even deeper vessels like the 300'-deep Lusitania or the 380'-deep Britannic.

It might be time to think of a better reason than “because it’s there.”

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