With the Block Island trip complete, the John Jack began its preparations for the 2014 Andrea Doria Expedition. This trip would run for three days, including the 58th anniversary of its sinking. The Andrea Doria, a luxury ocean liner that lies on its starboard side in 250 fsw of water, is almost twice as deep as the limit for recreational scuba diving. Located almost 100 miles off shore, the Andrea Doria is a very formidable dive, even when the weather cooperates. We left Point Judith, R.I. in the late evening under dark skies with a shaky forecast that left me wondering if I angered the sea gods in planning this anniversary trip. The crew quickly fell into their on-board routines as watches were posted and the scrum for sleeping accommodations began. A following sea made the trip comfortable as the big Cat engines hummed their happy tune as we slowly steamed southeast, escorted periodically by pods of dolphins playing in our wake. By dawn, we were on site, which is marked by the puddles of iridescent oil that still leak from the Grand Dame. The weather was holding. Capt. Terry and crew member Rick Simon “set the hook” in near record time, despite having strong currents at depth. It's always a good feeling when this difficult process goes so well. Great job Capt. T and Rick! Finally, the call, "pool's open" was made over the PA system and the divers began their elaborate, step-by-step process of gearing up. All of the divers would be breathing trimix on their dives. Trimix is a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium that minimizes the narcotic effects of nitrogen and avoids the toxic effects of oxygen. After the dive briefing by Capt. Sharky, the trip's leader and dive coordinator, the divers began splashing in groups of two or three. Although it was dark on the wreck, the viz was 20+ ft and the current had subsided. Upon their return, the divers were greeted with a hot breakfast prepared by our chefs Jeff and Tom. With a surface current ripping on Day 2, I closed the pool in the hope that conditions would improve by late morning. The divers were antsy, but safety comes first. By about 11AM, the ocean had settled and the divers were sent in. Back on board, we spelled the surface interval with tales about old times and older friends, diving, and great food and movies. This trip, we added two names to the rolls of the men and women who came, saw, and conquered "The Mount Everest of Wreck Dives.” By Day 3, our luck with the weather had run out so we bugged out, opting to make a quick dive on the Bass on the way home. Flat seas, playful dolphins, plenty of artifacts, great Doria conditions made this an unforgettable trip.
Special thanks to the men and women who make every trip a success, the dedicated crew of the John Jack. The crew for the Andrea Doria Expedition: Capt. Terry Martzall, Head Chef Jeff Schwartz, Sous Chef Tom Sarnacki, Chief Medical Officer Doc Tom Pritchard, equipment specialist and Doria tactician Rick Simon, electrical specialist and first time Doria diver Bryan Cunningham, Shawn The Spicy Diver Sweeney, and new to the crew of the John Jack, Captain Mark "Sharky" Alexander.