SCIENCE
06/14/2016 05:14 pm ET

Sunken Ship Becomes Greater Hazard To Divers Decades After Famous Wreck

Dozens of people died when the SS Andrea Doria sank, and now it's known as the "Mount Everest of shipwrecks."

Sixty years after colliding with the Swedish ocean liner MS Stockholm in a disaster that killed 46 people on board, the SS Andrea Doria isn't faring well under 240 feet of water.

The sunken Italian ocean liner is deteriorating faster than initial sonar images suggested, as the Washington-based company OceanGate discovered when it sent an underwater vessel to examine the wreck 50 miles off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. 

OceanGate launched a five-person crew in the Cyclops 1 submarine earlier this month in the first manned trip to the site since 1995, The Associated Press reported. Crew members soon found that the Andrea Doria's bow had nearly broken off. 

Submarine pilot-in-training Isabel Johnson sits at the bow of the Cyclops 1, a five-person sub used to capture deta
Boston Globe via Getty Images
Submarine pilot-in-training Isabel Johnson sits at the bow of the Cyclops 1, a five-person sub used to capture detailed sonar images of the Andrea Doria, which sank 60 years ago this summer.

"It looks so dramatically different," said OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, according to the AP. "When you look at the shape of the hull, it appears a lot has come off."

The wreck is collapsing due to changes in the marine environment and fishing activity. As the Andrea Doria continues to decay, it's becoming more dangerous for scuba divers, says National Geographic.

Currently, the wreck lies at roughly 70 feet below the suggested maximum depth for recreational diver. That, combined with strong currents, sharks and low visibility, makes it very difficult for divers who once relied on easily identifiable landmarks to figure out where they are.

Sixteen divers have died in the wreck over the years, which is why it's now dubbed the "Mount Everest of shipwrecks."

The SS Andrea Doria went down because it collided with a Swedish ocean liner on July 26, 1956. The disaster&nb
John Rooney/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The SS Andrea Doria went down because it collided with a Swedish ocean liner on July 26, 1956. The disaster killed 46 people on board the ship.

OceanGate's team spent two full days at the wreck and obtained new sonar images of it. Crew members had originally planned to spend more time down below to capture more detailed images, but bad weather caused the team to cut the trip short.  

The team plans to return next year to continue their sonar imaging and potentially create a 3-D "virtual model" of the wreck and debris field to learn more about how shipwrecks decay over time and their impact on marine life. 

Divers, you've been warned.

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