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Located on the island of Santo, Vanuatu this would have to be one of the most accessible wrecks in the world. A shore dive that allows you to view a magnificent World War 2 wreck, with depths down to approximately 70m this dive has something to suit everyone.
Before you even get into the water the treat starts. You begin by gearing up in a beautiful tropical garden with great ocean views.
After this you make your way to the waters edge literally only meters from where you gear up and then start your decent by following a large rope. You'll pass through the coral gardens with the same aquatic life that you can expect to see in the Great barrier reef (which you'll be returning to later). From here you'll continue to follow the large line until you hit the bow of the Coolidge. Sea ferns, coral, whips and a variety of fish life surround you at this top section of the ship.
From here many different dives await you, both inside and outside of the ship. The water - beautiful clear tropical conditions where even a 'bad' day will blow you away. Once you complete your dive you make your way back to the coral gardens to decompress. Here's in 5 meters of water you'll find a whole new way to spend the remainder of your dive. It boasts great opportunity for photographs, admiring the various life, or even feeding the local fish. Considering you pay to go on dives in the Great Barrier Reef just to see this - and this is thrown in as a bonus after diving on the wreck, there is little wonder why so many Australians prefer to return back to Vanuatu time and time again.
The dives available on the ship are many. I have listed a few of the more popular dives below, but there are a wide variety of dives you can do. Your guide can mix and match too, to create a unique experience each time you come back to revisit the region. One of my favourite ways to end the dive is via the chain locker room. Almost with all the dives I've done on the ship we find a way to get back via this area.
The 'Prom' deck as it's most commonly called will be the first dive you do on the Coolidge. It's a great introductory dive to the ship where you pass by the collapsed bridge, the outer hatches leading to the chain locker, and cargo bays 1 and 2, and part way down the ship. A very easy dive which gives you the time to become accustomed to the different waters and gear you'll be wearing (less weights, warm water, thin and comfortable suits), and requires little to no decompression at the end. Of course, being your first dive you will have no problems with doing a safety stop back at the coral gardens on your way back to shore.
Cargo Holds 1 & 2
Your next dive on the ship will be a penetration dive where you get to explore the insides of the ship. Cargo holds one and two are easy dives, but have much to look at. During this dive you will see Trucks, Jeeps, an upside down tracked vehicle (dozer / tank?) and various other artifacts. Groups can exit either back out the cargo holds, or make their way via the Chain locker room for something different.
Cargo Hold 4 / Medic Bay
Cargo hold 3 is a bit further within the ship. This can be accessed a few ways, but one of the more common is via a salvage hole at the top of the wreck. (Starboard side), and leads to the medic bay. Here you will find medical supplies. Other items you will see along the way include supplies of ammunition, an old movie camera, a potato peeler and large 'egg' like objects that are actually aircraft 'drop fuel' pods. (Although they resemble more like the alien eggs in the next of the movie Alien 2.
First class dining room and 'The Lady'
By the time you reach this dive you would have become more accustomed to diving through the ship.This dive is in a slightly tighter environment and becomes more adventurous. Included in this dive is the first class dining room, complete with the dining room lights, Elevator Doors (with the elevator cables still in place), C Deck Toilets and of course 'The Lady' statue with the unicorn.
|Max Depth:||45m - 50m|
A B and C Decks.
A B and C decks are an enjoyable dive that takes you via a number of places. A deck is the main deck of the Coolidge. Due to the shallower depths this is a great choice for a 2nd dive (afternoon dive). As the ship is on the side, the decks are next to each other, and you zig zag your way from the back of the ship through these decks towards cargo holds 1 & 2.
You swim past cabins, through bathrooms, and can go via a doctors office. You will see a variety of artifacts including a snipers rifle, shovels, gas masks, typewriter, helmets, plates, portholes to name a few.
This dive includes diving through some smaller areas where some silt remains. Care should be taken to not ruin the dive for others behind you.
This is a dive not to be missed. The times we have been we have gone through the ship with no torches on. Entering the water at dusk, just enough ambient light remains for you to make out the contours of the sea bed and ship. Depending on your guide there are a couple of different places you may visit on the ship, but all will take you to a room with flash light fish.
You will take 5 minutes or so just to observe these fish in motion. It's almost impossible to describe the experience. Seeing nothing but blackness, and hundreds of green fluorescent lights blinking making their way all over the place in different directions like cars in a city while floating weightlessly one can be excused for thinking that they're in a sci-fi movie.
At the end of the dive you can turn your lights on to make your way back to the deco stop where you can then observe the night life of the reef. A brilliant dive that everyone should experience at least once!
The swimming pool lies in around 55m of water. Along this dive you will see the pool with it's colored tiles, a mobile artillery gun, the soda fountain, and past the false tunnel, as well as AA guns. This is a dive that takes you outside the ship and is a relatively easy dive, although one should be cautious about Narcosis.
The engine room is a fantastic dive, which takes you via both the control and engine rooms via the more innermost parts of the wreck. You will see a variety of mechanics during this dive, including pressure gauges and valves (where some still turn after more than half a century being under water!), the Electric Engine, Condenser and telegraph. Due to the smaller areas and depth, this dive is best done in a small group to allow you a little more time to enjoy what the ship has to offer.
Cargo Holds 6 & 7
This is the deepest dive one undertakes in the ship, and can take you down to 60m in the ship in an overhead environment. This dive should only be undertaken by the more experienced diver.
It usually starts with a surface swim or a shallow swim along the top of the ship. You pass over the swimming pool, and past the small artillery gun which you see when diving the swimming pool, and you will see the large 6 inch gun near the stern of the ship. From here you enter the cargo holds where the spare propeller blade still remains. You take a few moments to admire the size of this before checking out the rest of the area which includes artillery guns, jeeps, trucks, a road grader and and plenty of ammunition. Also along the dive you will encounter china dinner plates from the galley.
While not the deepest dive, this is one of the most difficult dives on the ship. This is partly due to the distance you penetrate the ship at depth and restrictions encountered. It is best done in small groups (2 or 3 divers) with good experience.
You can enter this dive via Cargo hold 6 and will pass via the Tourist class Lobby and Dining rooms towards a rear passage way through to the Bakery. You will see some machines here including a potato peeler, numerous plates and crokery as well as other assorted kitchen utensils.
This is a dive for the more experienced diver that is used to restrictions, confined dark environments, silt and nitrogen narcosis.
Stern & Rudder
The stern is the deepest dive on the ship. The sea floor at the back of the stern lies in around 70m of water, although it is not recommended that you descent past 60m, especially on air. You will have to deal with nitrogen narcosis on this dive, and be cautious of PPO2 levels. This dive should only be undertaken by the more experienced diver.
It starts with a surface swim to the outermost buoy. From here you descent down the line to the stern of the ship. On this dive you will see the massive Rudder, the 'Coolidge' sign on the back of the stern, Six inch Guns and the prop shafts.
Your return trip will take you along the entire length of the ship (via the lower Holds 6 & 7, the Tourist smoking room, the swimming pool and back to the bow). Decompression will start in about 15m of water for this dive. Twin tanks and nitrox stage bottles are highly recommended.