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The SS President Coolidge

Listed under Diving in Vanuatu.

Photo of The SS President Coolidge
Photo by flickr user thmcmahon
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S.S. President Coolidge was a luxury liner commandeered by the US Navy and refitted as a troop carrier. In October 1942 she ran into one of her own mines in shallow water off Espiritu Santo and was wrecked with only two lives lost, after she was beached then slid into a channel. The Coolidge is now known as one of the largest accessible wreck dives - you can dive in off the shore.

There was a platoons worth of WW2 military cargo including big guns, ammunition, jeeps, tanks and personal solider’s kits, like helmets and mess sets in the hold and it all well down still in crates which you can now get down and dive amongst – quite an eerie experience. Soliders walked off it onto the beach, many leaving their kits to go back to once the fires had been put out but they never got to.

At 200 metres long there is also plenty to explore above decks, including what used to be two swimming pools - which is a photo opportunity waiting to happen – chandeliers, a gym and a barber shop. A lot of the finery was boarded up when she became a troop ship but some of it has since been revealed.

One of the key relics is a huge porcelain statue of a lady riding a unicorn which decorates the fire place of what was once one of the first class lounges. It is interesting to see both the military trapping and those of a first class liner on one wreck. One of the main marine sights is Boris, the 300 pound grouper who lives near the wreck and has been fattened up over the years by friendly divers. Trevelly, sharks, eels, turtles, lionfish and schools of barracudas are the other locals, as well as the rest of Boris’s shoal.

This is a really big wreck, with a full hold of varied cargo, and it will take you a couple of dives to see it properly, but the water is warm and visibility good so it’s probably worth planning an entire trip around diving the President.

Written by  Nick Shaw.

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Diving the SS President Coolidge

This is one of the most accessible war time wrecks. The SS President Coolidge was built initially as a luxury liner, but was converted during WW2, only to be sunk by an American mine. This ship has both the trimmings of a luxury passenger liner and the military equipment needed by a troop carrier and it sits in only 20 fathoms of water making it a fascinating dive.

Blacksand Reef and The Cathedral are some of the other popular sites in the area. Blacksand Reef for its coral caves and tunnels and The Cathedral for its spectacular selection of tunnels and deep holes.

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