Santo Vanuatu and the wreck of the SS President Coolidge

Santo Vanuatu and the wreck of the SS President Coolidge

Paul is recently returned from a work trip over to Santo Vanuatu, helping the team at Pacific Dive with some hydrostatic testing and O2 cleaning.  When the work was done, it was time for some diving and when in Santo, where else would you dive but the wreck of the SS President Coolidge.

Originally built as an American Luxury Cruise Liner, when the Second World War broke out in 1940 The Coolidge was converted to a Navy Ship able fitted out to accommodate 5,000 troops.

Whilst approaching a military base in Espiritu the ship hit 2 mines entering the harbour.  Knowing there was very little chance of saving the boat, the captain ran the vessel aground to save the men on board.  Although grounded, the ship still turned heavily and began a 90 minute slid back down into the canal.  Although 5,340 men were able to safely abandon ship, there were 2 casualties in the disaster.  Fireman Robert Reid was killed in one of the initial mine blasts and the ship’s Captain, Elwood Joseph Euart.

Elwood had returned to the ship after hearing some of his men were still trapped on board in the infirmary.  While he successfully saved these men with seconds to spare, he was sadly taken down with ship.

The SS Coolidge’s sank to its final resting place below 200 feet of water and multiple recovery efforts by the Americans to retrieve Elwood’s body were all unsuccessful due to the depth of the water.

With the abundance of nooks and crannies to be explored, the Coolidge became a popular diving spot in the 1950s and in 2012, a local diver named Rex spotted what appeared to be human remains.  After being notified of this discovery, another American Salvage Team was brought in and with the help of Rex, Captain Elwood was finally found and laid to rest back in the USA.

Knowing the story behind the SS Coolidge and its brave captain, diving this wreck should be on every diver’s bucket list.

A huge thanks to the Pacific Drive crew for a spectacular few days diving.  This trip was made all the more special to meet and dive with Rex who was the diver who discovered Captain Elwood J Euart’s remains on the Coolidge in 2012.  We also have to thank Simon and the rest of the staff at the Espiritu Hotel for their great hospitality.  Looking forward to seeing you all again soon!

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