Diving One of the World’s Biggest Wrecks: The SS Coolidge in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

ss-coolidge-wreck-dive (Images: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

On October 26, 1942 the SS President Coolidge tried to enter the harbor of Espiritu Santo, an island in the south pacific where a large military base had been established. The captain wasn’t informed of a friendly mine field that had been laid out, and the ship ran into two mines upon entering the harbour.

The captain ran the ship as close to the shore as he could and ordered the 5,000 troops to abandon ship. All but two men safely made it to shore before she sank to the bottom of the channel. She has been resting there ever since, her bow at around 20 meters and stern at 70.

The SS Coolidge now offers one of the best and most accessible wreck dives in the world. Over 20 different dive sites have been established and you need at least 10 dives to see the whole ship. Several types of corals and other marine life have moved into the ship over the years, such as moray eels, turtles, barracuda, lion fish, and a host of reef fish.

SS Coolidge Wreck

(Image: US Government)

The most accessible dive is the bow dive. You can see the cracks in the hull that were caused by the explosion when the ship ran into a mine. Some debris can be found here, like guns, helmets and other war material. If you’re lucky, you might see the wreck’s resident green moray eel, Nessie.

Bow Dive (Image: The Traveling Dutchman)

There are many other areas on and inside the ship to explore. On the ‘B’ Deck you can find bathrooms, ceiling light bulbs and various personal belongings of the soldiers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Image: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

The medical supplies area contains many items still intact, such as bottles of medicines and syringes. Nearby you can also explore the doctor’s office and the barber shop. The barber’s chair is still intact.

SS Coolidge Medical Supplies (Image: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

Probably the most famous item in the ship is the ceramic figure of “The lady” and her unicorn. Nearby you can swim through the first class dining saloon and lobby, library and continental lounge.

SS Coolidge Lady (Image: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

In the engine room you can see the condenser, turbines and propeller shaft, while the nearby machine control room contains temperature and pressure gauges.

SS Coolidge Engine Room (Image: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

The two 14,000 horsepower turbines provided power to the gigantic ship, operating at 2660 revolutions per minute.

SS Coolidge The Turbine (Image: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

When you dive the ABC decks you’ll swim though the accommodation sections of the ship. A plethora of personal belongings of the soldiers can be found here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Image: Aquamarine, reproduced with permission)

Check out more of Jasper’s diving and travel articles at his blog The Traveling Dutchman, and connect with him on Facebook.

Keep reading – explore the incredible Ship Graveyards of the Red Sea, and Dive the Japanese Shipwrecks of Truk Lagoon.

 

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