It’s a fascinating tale involving holidaymakers, troops and friendly fire. The ship was an ocean liner for Americans who took vacations to sail the seas in the 1930s. When WW2 broke out her sailing purpose changed. The SS Coolidge became a troop ship transporting some 5,000 men. She came to Melbourne on one war trip. She was used to rescue men injured at Pearl Harbour. But when entering the harbour at Espiritu Santo, the Captain had not been advised about American mines placed to thwart Japanese subs. The troop ship with more than 5,300 on board hit two of the mines and sank. Only two men lost their lives with everyone else getting safely ashore. Some even walked they were so close to the beach. The wreck remained there for decades and when Vanuatu became independent, the wreck was declared a dive area with nothing to be removed. It’s one of the easiest dives to a major ship in the world and hugely popular with holidaymakers in Vanuatu. It’s said to be one of the top 10 wreck diving sites in the world.
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