Welcome to Vanuatu
Vanuatu, officially known as the Republic of Vanuatu is a Pacific island nation which is located in the south Pacific Ocean. This archipelago is of volcanic origin and is around 1,750 km (1,090 miles) east of northern Australia, 540 km (340 miles) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Soloman Islands and west of Fiji.
This beautiful island is a Pacific island adventure far beyond your expectations. It offers an array of deserted beaches, remote and rugged islands, ancient culture and of course some world class diving scattered throughout an 80 plus island archipelago. Little effort and time is needed in order to really explore Vanuatu’s islands, but it is worth every single bit of it.
History of President Coolidge
The SS President Coolidge was built in 1931 and was an American luxury ocean liner. This ocean liner was operated by Dollar Steamship Lines until 1938 and then operated by American President Lines up until the year 1941. She was suck by mines in Espiritu Santa, whilst serving as a troopship from December 1941 until October 1942.
Vanuatu won independence from Britain and France in 1980, and on 18th November 1983, the government of this new republic declared that there would be no salvage or recovery of any artefacts would be allowed from the SS Coolidge wreck.
The harbour which was established on Espiritu Santo was a large military base heavily protected by mines. After information had been omitted accidentally from SS Coolidge’s sailing orders, the ship was informed that safe entry into the harbour was permitted. Unaware of the min fields, the ship tried to enter the harbour using the most obvious channel. Instantaneously, a mine struck the ship hitting its engine room, moments after, a second mine hit right near the stern. The captain ordered troops to abandon ship, knowing he was going to lose it. In disbelief that the ship would sink, troops were advised to leave their belongings behind, with the impression that they would be able to collect and salvage their things within the next couple of days.
Around 90 minutes after, men arrived safely to shore. As they disembarked there was no panic, many men even walked onto the shore. However, the attempts that were made by the captain to beach the ship were obstructed by a coral reef. The Coolidge listed on her side, began to sink and then slid down the slope on into the channel.
Only two casualties were recorded in the sinking. The first was a man who was working within the engine room when the first mine struck. The second was a Captain Euart, who went back to the ship to help men that were left in the infirmary which he successfully rescued, but was then unable to escape himself and went down with the ship.
A memorial to Captain Euart can be found on the shore near to the access points for the SS Coolidge dive. The Captains body was recovered in 2013 by a local dive guide. With his discovery a message was sent to the Australian High Commission who passed this onto US authorities in Hawaii. A recovery team from America arrived in February 2014 and worked together with local operators, they found Captain Euarts remains after 73 years of its sinking. His dog tags and personal items lay deep in the bottom of the wreck. After DNA matching with Euarts relatives were confirmed, it was advised that US military would perform a full military funeral service before he is to be buried with his parents.
Diving the President Coolidge
Since sinking the ship has been used for countless recreational diving. The Coolidge wreck is a largely intact luxury cruise liner and a military ship which offers numerous holds and decks for divers to swim through. Within the wreck itself there are Jeeps, cannons, guns, helmets, personal supplies, trucks, chandeliers, a mosaic tile fountain and an incredibly beautiful statue of “The Lady”. The Lady is a porcelain relief of a lady riding a unicorn.
The Coolidge is one of the most accessible shipwrecks of her size and type. Due to its easy beach access, high visibility and relatively shallow site makes it one of the most desirable wrecks. With care and decompression stops, divers are able to explore large parts of the wreck without any specialised equipment. The large size of the wreck, the gradual slope mean that great care must be taken when monitoring depth. A divers horizontal frame can be skewed which may prevent awareness of continual gradual descent.
The wreck is almost completely intact, but unfortunately time is taking its toll. However spectacular that is the President Coolidge dive, the wreck will not be around forever. With recent earthquakes collapsing parts of the wreck, access enjoyed by divers in the past will not remain.
The diving in Vanuatu is very diverse and interesting. Varied from the easy protected waters of the marine sanctuary, to the shallow colourful reefs, deep drop offs, crystal clear waters, teeming with fish life and sunken ship wrecks. The Coolidge wreck lies on her side in 20 – 70 meters (70 – 240 feet) of water.
The scenery and landscape beneath the water mirrors the beauty that can be found above it. The allure to this location is for many divers who visit Espiritu Santo or even Vanuatu is just to dive the Coolidge and spend about a week doing so.
Normally starting with an orientation dive, then working their way down to “The Lady”, a figure of a medieval woman riding a unicorn which is situated in the first class dining room.
The islands offer around 50 different dives. From a recreational diver’s perspective, all these dives are deep and should involve deco stops. Although in warm, relatively clear waters with practically no current, the depth is not as challenging as it could be elsewhere. The reef it has to offer is also very interesting, little coral gardens have been purposely built there at 5 km to mark the safety stop.
What Marine Life Can I See diving in Vanuatu?
Famous for its amazing marine life and coral reefs, Vanuatu has a wide variety of ocean fish and animals. Some of the marine life that can be spotted here include swordfish, marlins, yellowfin tuna and barracuda. Sea mammals such as dolphins and the majestic dugong, or sea cow, which is plentiful in Vanuatu, but endangered in many other parts of the world, also call this island home. Seeing these beautiful creatures are an experience to dive with in itself.
Due to its isolated ecosystem, Vanuatu is home to an array of sea creatures which are found only here as they are local to the area. Unique to its location include various starfish and several crabs, one species of crab is know to climb mangrove trees.
Being a tropical island, Vanuatu offers the best of both on land and sea worlds. The ocean surrounding it boasts crystal clear waters and beautiful coral reefs. It is no surprise that there are so many different animals who call Vanuatu home. Reef fish of all types, lionfish, moray eels and sea turtles are all creatures that call the reef home. The wreck itself is covered in coral formations and its the home to a plethora of sea life.
When is the best time to visit Vanuatu?
The climate in Vanuatu is tropical, and offers around nine months of warm to hot rainy weather. The possibility of cyclones and three to four months of cooler, drier weather is characterised by incoming winds from the southeast.
Water temperatures range from 22°C (72 °F) during the winter and 28 °C (82 °F) in the summer months. The days start to become hotter and more humid towards the beginning of October. Daily temperatures range from 20–32 °C (68–90 °F). Southeasterly trade winds can occur during May to October.
The island has a very long rainy season, with rainfall almost every month. The hottest and wettest months are December through to April, which are also known as the cyclone season. June to November are known as the driest months. Rainfall averages from 2,360 millimetres (93 in) each year but it can be as high as 4,000 millimetres (160 in) in the northern islands. The United Nations University gave Vanuatu the highest natural disaster risk of all countries it measured in 2015.
Vanuatu Travel Information
Note – Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – Bislama, French & English
Currency – Vanuatu vatu
Major Airport – Bauerfield International Airport
Topside Attractions – Millenium Cave (Luganville), Mount Yasur (Tanna Island) & Champagne Beach (Espiritu Santo)
Information link – http://vanuatutravel.info/