Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yesterday we got to dive on the President Coolidge. It was a luxury liner that was launched in 1931 and then converted to a troop carrier for WW11. The Coolidge sank when it went off course and struck a mine, the captain managed to beach her before she sunk and all but 2 of the over 6000 troops managed to abandon ship safely. The wreck is situated just off shore so you actually walk into the dive and then follow ropes down to the wreck. It is lying on its side and it is massive.
Our first dive we saw helmets, rifles and shell casing that had been abandoned lying on the side of the wreck. The dive master stopped and put on the helmet and picked up a rifle and he looked kind of scary with that stuff on over his scuba gear. We swam along the side and then along the forward promenade deck. The big 3 inch gun that was bolted to the forward deck is still there along with more huge shell casings.
Our second dive we got to go and see" the lady" it is a statue about a meter high of a woman sitting on a horse. It was still in very good condition and the colours were still highly visible even after 60 years. Our dive leader gave her a good brushing off when we were there so I am sure the constant stream of visitors keeps her clean. Barry bravely removed his regulator and kissed the lady. Then we got to dive inside the wreck, we saw a chandelier and then looked way up and saw the sunlight streaming in the portals. It is deceiving, I kept forgetting that the wreck was on its side so although I knew which way was up that was not the orientation of the ship. We swam inside through some quite narrow openings, I was quite happy to let the others go first to make sure they would fit and not get stuck.
Apparently you can do over 10 dives on the Coolidge and you can see a different part every time. We may go back to Luganville and dive Million Dollar Point, the spot where the American government dumped excess machines after the war; jeeps, trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment. The story goes that the army wished to sell them to the French but the French knowing that the Americans would not remove the vehicles offered them rock bottom prices for them. Rather than hand them over for nothing the U.S. drove them off the point and sunk them. Apparently an Aussie told us that the Aus government pulled some out a couple of decades later, changed the oil and took out the rust and the bulldozers worked for many years. What a waste!
We are going to head up to a resort today, we have heard some wonderful reports on the spot and then will begin to work our way back south to Port Vila where we will wait for a good weather window to sail to New Caledonia.