You might think that after 60 years underwater and after thousands of divers have been to visit her, there wouldn’t be anything new to discover on the SS President Coolidge. But nothing could be further from the truth. Aquamarine in Santo, Vanuatu has developed new dives and is offering new services this year that will delight newcomers and will challenge even the most seasoned Coolidge divers.
Aquamarine in Santo, Vanuatu has developed new dives that will challenge even the most seasoned Coolidge diver.
For those unfamiliar with the SS President Coolidge, she is one of the best wreck dives in the world and Vanuatu’s diving jewel. She’s ¾ the size of the Titanic (200 metres long) and lies just 50 metres offshore, resting on a slope with her bow at 20 meters and her stern at 70 metres. Her size, her depth and the fact that she’s still nearly fully intact make the SS President Coolidge the largest most accessible wreck dive in the world and a remarkable underwater playground for both novice and tec divers alike.
The SS President Coolidge has been amazing divers since 1969, when an average of only 50 divers per year made the trek to Santo, Vanuatu to see her. Now, thousands of divers visit every year but it’s still possible for you to get lucky and dive on a quiet day when you feel like you’ve got the entire vessel all to yourself. There are 20 unique dive sites that help you see the whole wreck but more dives are definitely needed to really get to know the ship. Some divers visit the Coolidge every single year to explore her and to see what new and exciting trinkets may have been found.
Avid Coolidge fans won’t be disappointed this year as a whole new stash of Coolidge items can be seen on Aquamarine’s new dive, The Labyrinth. Aquamarine has been taking divers to the Coolidge for over 17 years and boasts the highest diving credentials of any dive shop in Vanuatu. They regularly explore the wreck for new finds and The Labyrinth was developed to provide divers with access to parts of the ship not currently on the beaten track.
The Labyrinth takes divers on a twisting, turning dive to 55 metres through rarely explored areas of the ship. The dive alone is adventure enough, but on The Labyrinth divers also get to see an amazing selection of items that have only just been found on the Coolidge, including thermometers, microscopic slides, a tripod and a few other rare finds. The dive was launched at the start of the year and so only a few dozen divers have been on the dive so far. If you’re a wreck junkie, this is a dive that you simply won’t want to miss.
It used to be that at the end of a dive on the Coolidge, divers would be greeted by a tame 200 kg grouper named Boris, who provided endless entertainment to divers during their safety and decompression stops. It’s been nearly 2 years since Boris was last seen and the crew of Aquamarine felt it was time to pay tribute to their lost friend.
The Boris plaque can now be seen on several of Aquamarine’s Hash Tours.
On the afternoon of Friday, March 4, Sean Pittaway and a group of divers from Frog Dive in Guilford, joined Aquamarine in a small celebration to remember Boris. Divers carried a plaque down to the Coolidge where it was placed in Boris’ honor. Sean Pittaway photographed the festivities and was instrumental in choosing the site of the Boris plaque, which can now be seen on several of Aquamarine’s Hash Tours on the Coolidge.
For longtime Coolidge divers, seeing the plaque is a fun way to remember Boris. And you don’t need to worry about entertainment on the safety stops — as much as Boris is missed, without his big appetite around, there’s a lot more fish life to keep you entertained while waiting for your computers to clear.
One of the more exciting developments to hit the Coolidge is the increasing availability of tec diving and tec training. With warm tropical waters that never dip below 25c and a stunning wreck with nearly 1/3 of it resting between 50 and 70 metres, the Coolidge is a tec divers dream come true. Aquamarine offers both Nitrox and Trimix diving as well as a full range of tec courses including Advanced Trimix and Instructor level training for Nitrox and Decompression Procedures.
Aquamarine also caters to divers who want to dive with rebreathers. If you’re interested in diving the Coolidge on a rebreather, you can contact Dive Dive Dive about the Vanuatu Rebreather Dive Expedition running from 6 November to 14 November. Rebreather courses are available with Dive Dive Dive in preparation for the trip and to help you get ready for some of the most exciting diving you may ever do.
The SS President Coolidge may be old but she certainly hasn’t passed her prime. In fact, with the newly discovered items, the new dives and the whole new world opening to tec divers, there couldn’t be a better time to plan a visit to Vanuatu. The SS President Coolidge, without question, offers truly adventurous diving for all divers. The fact that conditions are good and the water is warm all year round is just an added bonus. If you dive, the Coolidge should definitely be in your log book.