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Date: 22 Oct 2012 00:32:39
Title: Junkyards on the sea floor

El Capitan speaking,

It's been a while since my last missive, almost 6 months! This one is unfortunately more of a narrative as I've had to take over Jo's duties as she didn't quite see all the SS Coolidge.

It's been left to me to write about the fine ship SS Coolidge. The Coolidge, which was converted from a luxury Cruise Liner to be a troop carrier during the war, unfortunately hit a friendly mine when entering the main pass into Espiruto Santo, Vanuatu. Will the Americans ever learn. The captain rammed it ashore, saving 4999 troops out of 5000. The ship then rolled back into the water 86 mins later with the Captain still aboard searching for the engineer who was killed in the initial mine blast, thus making him a hero and an idiot at the same time, (for blindly entering the harbour without a pilot).

Anyway, now it is one of the best preserved wreck dives in the world. However, equally they are called 'wreck' dives for a reason and being Vanuatu the wreck hasn't been as well preserved as it could have been. Never-the-less it was quite cool. When the dive was described, we were told of how we'd enter the grand dinning room, complete with chandeliers, (I imagine twin stair cases winding down into a great ballroom). The reality is a gaping slot across the ship, which runs vertically below us, as the ship is on it's side. Our torches hardly illuminate the wall 4m down, yet alone the vast depths 30m below. However we are shown a chandelier dangling on the side, aka roof.

The Elegant Chandeliers


Again in the description, we are told of the medical room and armoury, where I imagine, a few hospital trollies at the bottom and a medical cabinet and the armoury with a rack of guns, grenades and helmets. The reality is a line of bottles that a diver has arranged horizontally on one the roof girders in a corridor for the medical room and the photo opportunity on the ship side, where they have retrieved a helmet and gun for punters to put on.

The original loos lined up french-style.


That was the first dive. The second dive was much cooler. The SS Coolidge also contained a heap of armaments, from tanks to plane fuel pods to jeeps and trucks. When the ship first went down, as part of the salvage operation to retrieve all the armaments, they cut large holes in the side of the ship, which thankfully allows some light into the ship. Again we entered amidships, around 35m deep and swam towards the cargo holds near the bow, squeezing through tight slots on the way forwards, over flat bed trucks, jeeps and tanks. On the way, we also peered into a sealed, dark room, full of 'flashing' fish. Imagine looking down onto the roads of London at night, with lines of lights going by. The other highlight was the plane fuel pods. These are egg-shaped tanks, large enough to fit a Jojo inside. They were strewn over the bottom side of the ship. Picture one of the early scenes from Alien, where they enter the crashed ship and see a sea of the Alien eggs across the ship floor!

The Ships elevator running across the ship.


Unfortunately Jo wasn't able to enter the ship, as her ears just weren't playing game, so she had to entertain herself on the ships exterior surface. This was the deepest dive either of us had ever done at around 40m.

My overall impression of the dive was that the descriptions didn't quite live up to the reality and 70 years underwater eventually takes its toll, with all partitions having disintegrated and individual items rusted or coral encrusted into one amorphous blob. There were obvious exceptions in the deeper parts of the ship. Perhaps next time, we'll hit 60m!

If you look through port holes and it looks like this. Get out!


Never fired in anger.


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