At 11:10 p.m. on July 25, 1956, the luxurious Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria collided with the Stockholm forty-five miles south of Nantucket. Half a century later, the wreck of the Andrea Doria is still claiming lives.
Professional and amateur divers the world round consider the Andrea Doria to be the Everest of diving. At 225 feet below the surface, the wreck lies at the very edge of human endurance and accomplishment; ordinary air becomes toxic and the divers who go there suffer nitrogen narcosis or "the rapture of the deep." Symptoms include confusion, lack of coordination, and perhaps most deadly of all, a loss of the ability to make clear decisions. As a result, divers use Trimix, an exotic blend of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium to descend through the strong currents, rusted metal, and twisted wires to the ultimate symbol of deep sea diving accomplishments: china teacups and plates from the wreck of the Andrea Doria. For serious wreck divers, these fragile artifacts are genuine proof of their abilities as divers.
During the summers of 1998 and 1999, three elite divers lost their lives, all on separate dives from the top dive boat out of Montauk, the 65-foot Seeker. Craig Sicola was clearly suffering from "china fever" before he went down. He'd handled teacups brought up by veteran Doria diver Gary Gentile, and the gleam in Craig's eye was unmistakable. Craig dove on June 24, 1998. A few hours later, his body bobbed to the surface. He was carrying a plate.
Joe Haberstroh, the award-winning Newsday reporter, watched events unfold during the summers of 1998 and 1999. In this remarkable and intriguing book he recreates what was the pride of the Italian fleet, how it sank, the dangers of the deep, and the gripping personal stories of the men who live or die for a teacup from its remains.