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Thread: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

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    RBW Member TheRookMan is an unknown quantity at this point TheRookMan's Avatar
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    Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    Date: Friday & Saturday, June 25th & 26th
    Boat: R/V EXPLORER
    Crew: Capt. Dave ******, Mates: Ernest Rookey (author) & Ric Simon
    Boat Historian: Gary Gentile
    Passengers: Joel Silverstein, Carl Bayer, Chris Gini, Kathy Mallon & Laila Richard
    Location: Andrea Doria
    Surface Temps: 56 degrees
    Bottom temps: 41 Degrees
    Visibility: 40 feet
    Max Depth: 246 feet
    Ocean Condition: Calm Seas
    Total Dive: 3 (2 on Friday and 1 on Saturday)

    Dive 1:
    We arrived with all intentions of dropping 2 divers down to establish a mooring on the bow of the Andrea Doria but nothing ever comes easy on this wreck. It was 5:30 a.m. when the sun broke upon a light choppy sea, 1-2 footers, and a fresh breeze. Divers Gary Gentile and Ric Simon dropped down into the cold, dark ocean over the wreck and struggled with the weight and chain weighing over 60 pounds, trying to attach it to a permanent mooring on the Doria. At 240 feet and with a stiff current, this was not an easy task. They unclipped the weight and tried to wrestle the chain around the bow but the current took the 300 ft of rope and pulled them off their intended target. An hour and a half later they made it to the surface with the bad news that we would have to try again. Standby divers Joel Silverstein and I begin to suit up and the Captain went to Plan B: dropping a grapple onto the Doria to establish a firm connection.

    Joel and I wrestled the chain and 300 feet of mooring line down the anchor line to install the permanent mooring. Plan B worked and we managed to shackle the mooring chain into place through a porthole near to the bow. I attempted to release the grapple but the Doria demanded a sacrifice; in exchange for the mooring, she kept the grapple. So Joel released the chain from the grapple line and I attached and shot a lift bag with the line to alert those on board that the mooring was installed. It was time for the divers onboard to don their suits as we headed up the newly established mooring.

    Dive 2:
    I was excited by the opportunity on the second dive to get a tour from expert Doria diver Joel Silverstein whose plan was to evaluate the damaged areas to assess how much further deterioration the Doria has sustained since his last visit. We quickly dropped down to get as much time on the bottom as we could and again experienced the 41degree bottom temperature. Luckily Joel was kind enough to share with me an extra layer of thermals he’d brought, which made this dive a lot more comfortable. Thanks Joel!

    After a tour around the crack where the bow is separating from the rest of the ship, and a tour of the winter garden area that is completely collapsed, we headed back to the mooring where I took one more try to get that stubborn grapple away from the Doria. I had to dive head down into a damaged section of steel plating until only my fins were sticking out, but I managed to reach the spot where the chain had become stuck in the torn metal. Working primarily by feel and a little brute strength, I did manage to get that grapple loose, threw a lift bag on it, and sent it up to the Explorer where I was sure Capt. Dave would appreciate the gift. It turns out I was right, Capt. Dave did appreciate his grapple being returned, but our other Mate, Ric Simon, was not so keen about having to jump in the rubber dingy a hundred miles from shore and recover the lift bag. One good thing was that the seas by this time had calmed to almost dead flat and the stiff breeze had dropped to almost nonexistent.

    Steaks on the grill that night under a full moon with a bottle of champagne and good cigars have never been more appreciated. The day ended with a dozen dives safely completed, and the 5 new Doria divers were celebrating. After dinner, the conversation was all about plans for the next day’s dives mixed with tales of Doria dives from the past. What a pleasure to be able to listen to the history of the Andrea Doria from the likes of Gary Gentile, Joel Silverstein, and Dave ****** while suspended over the Doria on a clear, dark sea.

    Dive 3:
    Day 2 over the Doria broke with the California contingent (Chris, Kathy & Laila) gearing up for the first dives. After getting them in the water, it was my turn to finally get to do a dive with my friend Carl Bayer. The plan was to do a long dive and then call it a day. We had decided on trying to find some more of the small, colored bathroom tiles (pool tile?) that Carl had brought back a sample of the day before, and then continue our search down at the bottom in the debris field for whatever the Andrea Doria may have left for us. At this point we had hopes of finding a porthole or maybe some promenade windows that we could turn into coffee tables.

    With Carl leading the way to his tile cache and me following hot on his heels laying the line, we headed out into the debris field. Fifteen minutes into the dive, I heard Carl shrieking as if someone had stuck him with a pin. Fearing the worst, I quickly swam up to him to see what the noise was all about. When I saw what he was looking at I started shrieking myself, the two of us sounding like little girls, on all the helium. There in front of us, laying on its side three-quarters buried in the mud, sitting all alone, was the obvious lip of a bell. Digging like badgers, Carl and I started to try and free it.

    Taking a quick check of our time, I saw that we had to leave in 2 minutes, and it looked like we were never going to be able to pull it out in time. When I looked back at the bell, Carl had planted both fins on either side of it, had grabbed the exposed lip with both hands, and with an amazing tug the bell started to move. I jumped in immediately to help him pull it out of that hole, creating an instant mud storm, dropping our visibility from 40 ft to 6 inches, which thankfully the current rapidly blew away. I attached my liftbag through the eyelet at the top of the bell and inflated it to its full 50-pound capacity, which the bell totally ignored. Carl then attached his 125 pound liftbag through the eyelet and I start to fill this second liftbag, all the while wondering how much more gas was left in those 108s on my back. Finally the bell lifted off from the mud. I quickly gave Carl the thumbs up, meaning ‘the dive’s over lets get the hell out of here.’ Carl thought I was giving him a thumbs up for “job well done!” That’s the problem with these rebreather guys--they never think about limited gas supplies. I started pushing the bell back up the line to the mooring, Carl grabbed the reel, and we were out of there. Looking at my bottom timer, I saw amazingly that only 2 minutes has passed although it felt like a lifetime. We headed back up the line and just before we reached the tie-in point the bell finally got pulled out of my hand by the expanding lift bags. My hope of getting the wreck reel line attached to it faded into the distance over our heads.

    All there was left to do was complete more than an hour-and-a-half worth of deco while praying that the guys on board were looking out for a liftbag. I was hoping Ric wasn’t going to be too mad at having to use the dingy again. But mighty Neptune looked on us favorably that day, as the gods tend to do for children and fools, and delivered the bell 30 feet in front of the bow of the R/V Explorer. Capt. Dave, out on the bow, was the first to spot the liftbag breaking the surface like a missile with a heavy weight dangling beneath it. Calling for a gaff he watched the stately progress of the liftbag as it made its way along the port side of the boat. He casually secured the liftbag with the gaff and walked it back to the dive platform, wondering whether he had a porthole or some other brass fittings as the bag looked like it was carrying a heavy load. I only wish I could have had a camera to show his face when he pulled a bell from the Andrea Doria out of the ocean.

    Meanwhile, 200 feet below, Carl and I were wondering, ‘Did they see it? Did the bags hold? Did it make it to the top? Is it floating to England?’ At each and every stop along the way from 170 feet all the way up to 40 feet, all we could do was high five, fist bump, giggle a little, and then wonder, ‘are we ever going to see it again?’

    Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw Gary Gentile, pulling himself like a madman down the mooring line, grinning so hard I am amazed he didn’t lose his regulator. The whole way he was giving me the OK and thumbs up signs, and pointing to my buddy Carl who was flying like a flag in the current below me. I rapped Carl on the head, pointed back up to Gary and then Carl knew as I did -- they got it!

    The rest of the deco was one of the longest and most frustrating periods I have ever had to endure. After what seemed like forever, I climbed on the boat grinning like a fool and basking in the applause, the thumps on the back and the exclamations of ho-ly shit. Joel was right there with a camera, recording our expressions for posterity.

    Right now, sitting in a long line of traffic trying to get through Connecticut and dictating this saga to my lovely and understating wife, I am wondering how in my life I am ever going to top this dive. On my first dive on the Andrea Doria I ended up doing the tie-in, and on my third dive on the Doria, I retrieved the bell. Ho-ly shit. I guess I am just going to have to give up diving…no that’ll never work. Hey, does anyone know if the Britannic still has its bells?

    Ernie Rookey
    NAUI Tech Inst #43322

  2. #2
    RBW Member Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    one of the guys pulled a bell of a wreck we were on and sent it up. I was on the deck when it surfaced. he had tied off the bag to the bells bracket (not a good idea) only a rusted pit connected the two. By the time he had finished his deco I had hidden the bell and asked him why he had sent up a corroded brass bracket? (having removed the bell from it first) His face was a picture

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    Banned MB is an unknown quantity at this point MB's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    Well done Earnie! Nobody could be prouder if you. There *was* the temptation to attach your lift bags to my small fog bell with a sign reading " everything looks bigger underwater" but...

    Enjoy. You deserve it.

    Dave

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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    nice post ,, thanks ,, well done ,,

  5. #5
    Dive Junkie Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    Great job, even for an OC diver. Where are the pictures of you and Carl?


    Last edited by Dave O; 29th June 2010 at 01:26.

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    Dive Junkie Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O is a glorious beacon of light Dave O's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    Quote Originally Posted by Drmike  View Original Post
    one of the guys pulled a bell of a wreck we were on and sent it up. I was on the deck when it surfaced. he had tied off the bag to the bells bracket (not a good idea) only a rusted pit connected the two. By the time he had finished his deco I had hidden the bell and asked him why he had sent up a corroded brass bracket? (having removed the bell from it first) His face was a picture

    NICE!

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    RBW Member scubafi is an unknown quantity at this point scubafi's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    The one of Carl and Ernie is one of my favorites. Ernie's ears might still be ringing!
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    Last edited by scubafi; 29th June 2010 at 02:06. Reason: I can't spell.

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    rEvo Shearwater tony13 has a spectacular aura about tony13 has a spectacular aura about tony13 has a spectacular aura about tony13 has a spectacular aura about tony13 has a spectacular aura about tony13's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    Great job guys, you should be very proud.

    Tony

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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    I'm so thrilled for you guys. Enjoy the great feeling! Absolutely a dream come true!

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    RBW Member JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF is a jewel in the rough JasonF's Avatar
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    Re: Raising the bell off the Andrea Doria

    Congratulations Carl and Ernie!

    I couldn't resist, on my way to the shop this morning I stopped by Carl's house to personally congratulate him!

    We had a nice 2 hour chat about the whole experience! I should of had a video tape recording. Hearing Carl tell the story of the discovery/recovery of the AD Bell (all on 1 dive mind you) had my heart racing!

    I'm really happy for the both of you!

    Go Jersey Wreck Divers!!!!!!

    P.S. Ernie......come see me for some CCR Training 240' on O.C.

    Cheers

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