April 1 Dive Report - Andrea Doria

By Diver Dave

Monday, 03-Apr-2000 12:58:42

My first trip to the Doria - definitely not my last!!!

Seas were calm and it was a smooth, although long ride on the Le Petomaine out of Fire Island.

We tied into the bow and it was a little longer get down the ascent line than I expected. Some of the divers had problems equallizing, and one went back up with his face mask full of blood.

One diver must have inadvertently filled his tanks with Nitrox. At about 140 feet he started to seizure. I managed to grab onto his "Spare Air" bottle and one of the other divers grabbed his left fin and we tried to drag him up the line, but he kicked so hard that the bottle came off his belt, the fin came loose, and he was quickly swept away by the current. Luckily, his lift bag was attached to his fin strap, and we wrote a quick message on the fin to the surface folks, and filled his lift bag with a little air and up went our message. (As a PS to this portion of the story - his body wasn't found.)

I got a little narced about 150 feet down, but was able to keep my composure fairly well. Most of the divers were on tri-mix, but I braved it with my compressed air. I used twin 120's, with an additional pair of twin 120's on a line that I tied off to the bow of the Doria. We hung a pair of 100's at the 15 foot safety stop with a pair of first stages.

I was using my 1/4" wet suit and it was a little cold until I got narced, at which point I felt fine. I forgot my cold water gloves and ended up diving with a pair of reef gloves. After a few minutes of cold, my fingers got pretty numb and didn't bother me anymore. Visibility on the wreck was really quite good. 30+ feet in the interiors, before we kicked up some silt. We entered the Promenade deck through the doors on the port side, about 15 feet above the gash left by the Stockholm crash. We worked our way down the hallway to the First Class Ballroom.

For those of you not familiar with the Doria, the First Class Ballroom is directly over the Purser's office, which is on the Upper deck. We had found a set of plans for the Doria and found out there was a faux floor in the FC Ballroom, which we were able to move with our crowbars to gain access to the Purser's office.

In the purser's office we found the safe that has been much reported on. It was pretty badly rusted and it took only a few minutes to pry it open. Inside we found lots of muck - papers that had disintegrated. However, we also found 9 gold bars that we later measured at 14 pounds each.

We changed to our second sets of twin 120's and decided to go down to the sand to hunt for lobsters. The crustacean take was pretty good that day, with a couple of 4 pounders and one 7 pounder. Personally, I got several in the 2 - 3 pound range, as well as a couple of large scallops.

One of the divers in our group had a problem when he scraped against the side of the Doria and it broke off the manifold on his tanks. He went shooting past like a jet engine before any of us could react and he was gone. He was carrying 3 gold bars and he dropped them, so we were able to at least recover the gold. Shame he won't be enjoying it with us, but we later decided to give his share to his family. To give you an idea of how the narcosis affected me, I couldn't fit the lobsters and the gold bars in my game bag, so I left the gold and started going up with the lobsters. I couldn't understand why the tri-mix buddies were motioning to me and my bag, however they were luckily paying attention and they grabbed my gold bars and put them in their bags. We divided our treasure up equally on the surface. We didn't see any pellagic's or even larger fish down there - just a few blackfish, cod, ling. There were a few flounder down in the sand, but nothing worth mentioning.

On the way up, one of the divers in our group must have had an exhaust valve failure. His suit started to fill up with air. He was going up faster than the rest of us, and one of the divers in the group swam as hard as he could to grab him. He reached for his flashlight, which was hanging at the end of 3 foot strap, but accidentally grabbed his weight belt buckle. I guess we were at about 140 feet when the weight belt came off, and another diver was lost as he rocketed to the surface. When we made it to the boat, we found that they had recovered him, but because of the speed at which he went up, he had a traumatic body explosion. Luckily, the cadillac of drysuits, his DUI 200, kept the boat nice and clean.

We did a 3 hour stop at 18 feet until we sucked the pair of 120's almost dry. Then, back to the Le Petomaine to celebrate an enjoyable, yet dramatic, April Fools Day Dive trip to the Andrea Doria.

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