On July 26, 1956 the Andrea Doria collided with the Stockholm and sank in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 60 miles off Nantucket, Rhode Island. This was one of the biggest ship collisions in modern history. Most of the passengers were rescued. The media covered much of the event as it took almost 24 hours for the Andrea Doria to sink. There was a young photographer and film-maker named Peter Gimbel, heir to the Gimblel’s Department Store fortune who decided he would be the first to dive and photograph the shipwreck. Hurrying to Nantucket he was able to get a boat to take him to the site. On July 27 1956, twenty-eight hours after she sank, Peter Gimbel and his partner Joseph Fox made the first scuba dives down through the icy black waters and photographed the Andrea Doria in her final resting place.
Some of the images they captured on 35mm film were quickly placed on the cover of Life Magazine. A few weeks later a full story including other images both black and white and color came out as well. But there were a whole host of images from those first dives that Life did not publish. They remained in Gimbel’s archives up until his death in 1987. Over the years Peter Gimbel mounted dozens of expeditions to the Doria and produced two film documentaries and opened the pursers’ safe on national TV in 1984. Sadly Gimbel died in 1987 at the age of 59. For more than a half century all the original images, prints, negatives, transparencies and cinematic film were kept in storage.
A few years ago shipwreck explorers Joel Silverstein and Kathy Weydig acquired the Gimbel collection. It is a massive body of work that will take significant efforts to archive digitally. At the upcoming TekDiveUSA conference on April 22-24 in Miami they will reveal the first few images from that famous first dive on the Andrea Doria and a few from the 1984 commercial dive operation with Oceaneering where the famous “Gimble’s Hole” was cut into the hull for recovery of the safe.
The shipwreck has been the wonder, excitement, and adventure for scuba divers since the day she sank. It has been suggested that these first dives were the genesis of deep water technical diving. This summer will mark the 60th Anniversary of the Sinking of The Andrea Doria.