Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"No greater prize" than Andrea Doria’s Bell

In a follow-up to the story we brought you earlier this month about the discovery of the bridge bell from the historic shipwreck of the Andrea Doria, it's safe to say the find was the pinnacle of David Sutton’s career.

Sutton, 50, who has been scuba diving since he was 6 years old and flying MiG fighter jets since he acquired a fleet from the dissolving Soviet Union, didn’t dive the lowest or fly the highest. His greatest achievement, on June 26-27, was bringing home the bridge bell from the wreck of the Andrea Doria.

“Simply going down to the shipwreck and coming back alive is compared to climbing Mount Everest,” Sutton said Monday from his research vessel, the Explorer, docked in South Kingstown. “There is no greater prize in shipwreck diving than the bell of the Andrea Doria.”

On June 27, he hung the bell from the Explorer’s boom, swung it over the dock at Stone Harbor Marina and sounded it with his diver’s hammer, ringing it for the first time since the Italian ocean liner sank on July 26, 1956, about 55 miles off the coast of Nantucket, or 100 miles from Sutton’s boat.

The wreck of the luxury steamship rests in about 240 feet of very cold water. Strong currents race in different directions at different depths. At the bottom, the currents bang objects around inside the hull and stir up sediment, sometimes reducing visibility to zero. The wreck itself is collapsing slowly into the ocean, but the tangle of fishing nets and the boat’s ropes and wires makes diving especially treacherous. Fifteen have died diving there over the years.

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