When to go diving
History and wrecking
Built in Virginia in 1931, on behalf of the Dollar Shipping Company, the SS President Coolidge and his twin brother the SS President Hoover were the two largest US ships. Measuring nearly 188 meters long, those two ships were intented to the rich vacationers seeking sunshine in the Pacific and the Far East. Besides, the equipment on board had everything to attract this clientele: 2 swimming pools, large salons, a beauty shop, a gymnasium, restaurants and of course luxurious cabins.
After several juridical setbacks, the company managing the SS Coolidge must suspend the operation of the ship. During the Second World War , the ship is used to repatriate American citizens from Honk Kong and other Asian counters. In June 1941, the SS Coolidge became a military troop carrier supplying the Pacific garrisons and evacuating the armed soldiers.
In October 1942, the SS Coolidge was ordered to the Port of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. The captain of the boat, who has no information about the presence of mines, penetrates the harbor without fear. A first mine strikes the ship at the level of the engine room then a few seconds later a second explodes near the stern. Captain Henry Nelson decides to fail the ship and evacuate the troops. 2 men will lose their lives that day a mechanic and a captain. This loss significantly delayed the deployment of the 25th Division during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Protected shipwreck and dive site in Vanuatu
In 1980, Vanuatu obtained independence from France and Great Britain. In 1983, the new government declares that the SS Coolidge is part of its heritage. Since then, the wreck has become a highlight of recreational diving. The boat is located at a short distance from the beach, in an area protected of the currents and at a depth between 20 meters prow and 65 meters stern which makes it accessible to different groups of divers. A level 2 diving, advanced open water will be able to dive much of the wreck but if you want to see it as a whole or explore every corner of its bowels, Technical diver equipment will be more suitable. The wreck, by its gigantic size, offers many possibilities for visits. You can explore it dozens of times without getting tired of it.
The visit generally begins on the front part of the ship where you can see the heavy chain of the anchor. Guns are positioned at the front. Various openings allow access to the interior of the wreck and to penetrate different rooms. There are several rooms and objects that you will not want to miss, starting with the engine room, the favorite place for divers with its huge boilers, the two swimming pools, the infirmary, the smokers’ lounge, the bathroom Captain or the office. In the magnificent dining room of the first class, a large ceramic figure is hung on the wall representing a woman with a horse. In the front holds, the military trucks are still there as well as many other military equipment. Finally, on the outside, the promenade bridge and the stern will allow you to observe a large number of fish species. During the diving, the guns and ammunition scattered around will remind you that the memories of the Second World War are found on all the seas of the globe.
Fauna and flora
The wreck of the SS Coolidge is covered by corals, sponges and anemones. Many species have sheltered inside the ship. You will encounter lion fishes, barracudas, moray eels, groupers and angel fishes. You may also scuba dive with sea turtles, leaf fish, seahorses or even ghost pipe fishes, on the reef leading to the wreck.