By Nathan Bruttell - Today's News-Herald
Pitch black, icy water, 230 feet below the surface and inside a 54-year-old collapsing ship.
That combination would scare most people, but for Havasu resident Joel Silverstein, the dive down to the famous Andrea Doria shipwreck is as good as it gets.
“You have to be able to work in the dark, you have to be able to work alone and you need a fair amount of resolve.
This is a very dangerous location and fatalities do happen,” said Silverstein, vice president and COO of Havasu’s Tech Diving Limited. “Sometimes it’s flat calm and perfect down there. Other days it’s a washing machine.”
But the famous ocean liner shipwreck that sunk in 1956 after colliding with the Swedish liner Stockholm in the waters off Nantucket still gives up treasures, Silverstein said.
On June 25 aboard Capt. David Sutton’s R/V Explorer on the Silverstein/Sutton 2010 Andrea Doria Expedition, New Jersey divers Ernest Rookey and Carl Bayer located and recovered the “crow’s nest bell” from the Andrea Doria. The bell is considered to be “one of the most significant finds in the history of the wreck,” Silverstein said.
“This is an outstanding and historic find,” said Silverstein, the expedition leader during the find, in June. “In my 18 years of diving the Doria, this is probably the most significant artifact found.”
Andrea Doria historian and author Gary Gentile, who found the wreck’s stern bell in 1985, was also aboard the Silverstein/Sutton expedition.
“There was never any proof that a crow’s nest bell existed until today,” said Gentile in June.
Gentile has been diving the wreck since 1974 and has more documented dives on the Andrea Doria than any other diver, according to a press release. Fewer than 1,000 divers have visited the wreck from all over the world and 13 have lost their lives.
Silverstein said the dangers, depth, isolation, freezing temperatures and strong currents have combined to earn the Andrea Doria the nickname as “the Mount Everest of dives.”
“The danger and the intrigue of finding something significant make it one of the most famous dives in the world,” Silverstein said, adding that he’s made 14 dives on the wreck since 1992. Silverstein’s wife and Tech Diving Limited President Kathy Weydig has made several dives as well.
“We take a lot of precautions before heading out and safety is our absolute first priority. Finding artifacts is actually easier now than it used to be because it has collapsed and they’re just spilling out. Most divers don’t enter the inside anymore.”
Finding the crow’s nest bell was a combination of “great skill and a little bit of luck,” Silverstein said.
The 75-pound bronze bell, which holds the Andrea Doria name, was largely covered in sand and debris on the ocean floor when Bayer and Rookey first saw it.