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SS President Coolidge - the greatest and most accessible ship wreck in the world

The largest most accessible ship wreck dive in the world and considered by many the best wreck dive in the world. 22,000 ton, 200m x 25m (654' x 81'). The President Coolidge was a luxury passenger liner converted to troop carrier during WWII. While entering the Santo harbor she hit two American sea mines on the 26th October 1942. Almost completely intact you can swim through the many holds and decks viewing the many reminders of war. You can see the famous "Lady", an Elizabethan statue was originally sits above the fire place and a reminder of the ships former grandeur. Diving on the Coolidge is broken up into many different sites with dives to suit all experience and interests. All dives are guided by experienced dive guides and divemasters. The Coolidge is also home for many corals and fish, schools of barracuda, trevally, moray eel, turtle and reef fish are permanent residents. Access to dive on the Coolidge is easily done from shore. Dugong had been seen at deco stop scratching his or her huge body on deco bar. Night diving on the Coolidge is highly recommended. There are thousand of flight light fish inside wreck. Turn off your torch on your guide signal, and you feel like you are in the space full of stars.

Information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_President_Coolidge

SS President Coolidge The SS President Coolidge was a luxury ocean liner that was originally built, along with her sister ship the SS President Hoover, for Dollar Steamship Lines. They were the largest merchant ships the US had built up to that time. In 1938, when the Dollar Steamship Lines collapsed, she was transferred to American President Lines. In 1941 she was converted to carrying troops in the South Pacific. Launched in February 1931, the SS President Coolidge was built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. in Newport News, Virginia, USA. Prior to World War II, she was operated by the American President Lines as a luxury liner providing trans-Pacific passage and commercial service. The Coolidge was aimed at holiday makers seeking sun in the Pacific and Far East. During her time as a luxury liner, she broke several speed records on her frequent trips to Japan from San Francisco. Passengers had a luxurious experience on the ship with spacious staterooms and lounges, private telephones, two saltwater swimming pools, a barber shop, beauty salon, gymnasium and soda fountain.

In March 1939, President Coolidge became the last ship to sight the custom-built Chinese junk Sea Dragon, built and sailed by American explorer Richard Halliburton, before she disappeared in a typhoon some 1,900 km west of the Midway Islands.

In 1941, as war time activities increased, the US War Department began to use the President Coolidge for occasional voyages to Honolulu and Manila. She also helped evacuate Americans from Hong Kong when Japanese-British relations became strained in 1940. She was later called upon to assist in the evacuations of many people from Asia as the Japanese aggression increased. In June 1941, the Coolidge went into service with the American Army as a transport ship for reinforcing garrisons in the Pacific. A few months later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After this, the Coolidge was stripped of her finery, painted haze gray, mounted with guns and turned into a troop ship. Many of the fixtures and fittings were removed or boarded up for protection. After full conversion in 1942, she could carry over 5,000 troops. As a troop carrier, she was never intended to see any action. In her first few months of service, her ports of call included Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland, Bora Bora, and Suva. On October 6, she set sail from her home port of San Francisco, California for New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.

A large military base and harbor had been established on Espiritu Santo and the harbor was heavily protected by mines. Information about safe entry into the harbor had been accidentally omitted from the Coolidge's sailing orders, and upon her approach to Santo on October 26, 1942, the SS Coolidge, fearing Japanese submarines and unaware of the mine fields, attempted to enter the harbor through the largest and most obvious channel. A mine struck the ship at the engine room and moments later, a second mine hit her near the stern.

President Coolidge sinkingCaptain Henry Nelson, knowing that he was going to lose the ship, ran her aground and ordered troops to abandon ship. Not believing the ship would sink, troops were told to leave all of their belongings behind under the impression that they would conduct salvage operations over the next few days.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, 5,340 men got safely off of the wreck and to shore. There was no panic as the troops disembarked - many even walked to shore. However, the captain's attempts to beach the ship were unsuccessful due to the coral reef. The Coolidge listed heavily on her side, sank, and slid down the slope into the channel. She now rests on her port side with her bow at a depth of 20 metres (70 ft) and her stern at 70 metres (240 ft).

There were 2 casualties in the sinking of the Coolidge: [2] The first was Fireman Robert Reid, who was working in the engine room and was killed by the initial mine blast. The second, Captain Elwood J. Euart, US Army Field Artillery, had safely gotten off the Coolidge when he learned that there were still men in the infirmary who could not get out. He went back in to one of the sea doors, successfully rescued the men but was then unable to escape himself and he went down with the ship. A memorial to Captain Euart is located on the shore near the access points for the Coolidge.

A video about diving in the SS President Coolidge and about one of the companies of soldiers on the ship, Company E, was made in 1984. It is called Grave of the President.

Coolidge sinking, Espritu Santo, VanuatuThere were three official inquiries surrounding the cause of the sinking. The first preliminary Court of Inquiry convened November 12, 1942 aboard the USS Whitney at the behest of Admiral Halsey. The Court of Inquiry recommended additional charges be laid against Captain Nelson. The matter was referred to a Military Commission which convened in Nouméa, New Caledonia on December 8, 1942. This commission acquitted Captain Nelson of guilt. From the Commission of Inquiry it came out that Merchant Marine vessels were not given all available tactical information, most notably regarding the placement of mines. This simple precaution would have prevented the sinking. This outcome did not please the Navy Department, and he was referred to a Coast Guard Investigation Board upon his return to the United States on February 6, 1943. This Investigation Board took no further action.

After the war came salvage operations which recovered items such as the propeller blades, bunker oil, brass casings of shells, electric motors, junction boxes and copper tubing. However, from November 18, 1983 the Vanuatu government declared that no salvage or recovery of any artifact would be allowed from the Coolidge. Since then the ship has been used for recreational diving.

After the war came salvage operations which recovered items such as the propeller blades, bunker oil, brass casings of shells, electric motors, junction boxes and copper tubing. However, from November 18, 1983 the Vanuatu government declared that no salvage or recovery of any artifact would be allowed from the Coolidge. Since then the ship has been used for recreational diving.

More Images


Book - The Lady & President by Peter Stone A$56.00

Video - The Wreck of the President Coolidge by Michael Garken U$19.95



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