Million Dollar Dive

Vanuatu, called the New Hebrides at the time, was very important for the Allies during World War II.  As the Japanese slowly worked their way down through Pacific islands, the New Hebrides had some of the closest American airstrips to the area of combat, so they could launch their attacks on places such as Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.  Many military and construction machines were brought in to the bases, but after the war finished, they didn’t know what to do with all the extra stuff.  The Americans offered the equipment to the colonisers of the islands, England and France, but got no reply.  So, they dumped it all in the water!  The place they dumped it is now called Million Dollar Point (should be called Million Dollars Wasted point), not far out at all from Luganville, Vanuatu’s 2nd largest city, located on the island of Santo.

As Kaia explained in her Millenium cave blog, the trek we had scheduled was postponed 2 days.  We spent the first of those days at Millenium cave.  For the day after that, my mom and I felt we were ready for another SCUBA dive.  By far, the most popular dive in Luganville , and perhaps all of Vanuatu is the wreck of the SS President Coolidge.  It was a luxury-liner turned into a troop carrier that hit “friendly” mines on it’s way into Luganville harbour.  Knowing it was going to sink, the captain ran it aground and everyone got out safely.  However, it quickly started to slide into the ocean where it still rests.

crew abandoning the SS Coolidge after it was run aground

Considered the best wreck dive in the world, it’s a must-do for divers visiting the area.  However, the wreck starts at 23 metres depth, and neither of us is certified to go that deep, so we decided to pass on that one. 

other divers on the SS Coolidge

We decided to do a dive at Million Dollar Point because it was shallow enough for us to dive amongst the wreckage, and my dad and Kaia could see it while snorkeling too.

We started in the morning by going to the dive shop to get our equipment and meet our divemaster, Steve.  We then drove to the point, got suited up, and got a briefing on the dive plan.  To get started, we did our first ever shore entrance, where you walk in from the beach instead of going in from a boat.  It’s really hard to walk with all that equipment.  Now I think I know how a giant tortoise feels!  We put our regulators into our mouths and down we went.  Blub, blub, blub…

As soon as we were underwater, we could see the scuttled equipment.  There were a lot of old, rusty and algae-covered jeeps, forklifts and bulldozers, all of which seemed to be upside down for some reason, so we were seeing a lot of tires!  It was a mix of a wreck dive and a reef dive because now, there’s coral growing on the wreckage, and the two together make a very safe place for pretty fish.  I identified a lot of them, some of which are in the movie “Finding Nemo”.  There were angelfish, butterfly fish, a batfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, moorish idols (Gill), damselfish (Deb), and of course, clownfish.  They swim around their anemone just like Marlin and Nemo do (now we go out… and back in).  We also saw sea cucumbers, starfish, and even a sea turtle!  My dad was using the GoPro, so we only have pictures of what they saw while snorkeling.



Here’s a little video clip of some of the wreck:


It's incedible how it's still almost completely intact!
When we started this trip in Costa Rica, Kaia was afraid of swimming with fish. Here she is swimming down into a school of about 1000 decent size fish to show that she's no longer afraid.

Here’s a short YouTube clip of her “I’m not afraid” dive.

Here’s a little clip of a school of fish that moved all together, like in the Finding Nemo film: fish:

Nemo in his anomone.

Here’s a cute YouTube of Nemo hiding:


Kaia playing peek-a-boo with Nemo and his friends.

Kaia and Nemo:

One of my favourite parts about the dive was this forklift that you can sit in and pretend to drive.  There’s still a bit of a seat and the steering wheel is still completely intact!  BTW: the rest of the pictures are deep down (we didn’t have the camera) so are from the internet.

The rubber tires don't seem to have deteriorated much in the 70 years they've been underwater.
This old tank now has soft coral growing on it.
Look at the huge Crown of Thorns starfish at the bottom of the picture.


This boat was full of swimming fish.

After about 45 minutes underwater, we came back up and walked out along the beach.  We had a lot to tell my dad and Kaia and they had a lot to tell us.  Million Dollar Point is really cool and interesting in so many different ways, and it reminded me how much of the world’s history, life and wonder is hidden beneath the waves.


One thought on “Million Dollar Dive”

  1. Cool!

    I went snorkelling at Million Dollar Point… such a strange amalgamation of coral, stone, metal, rust, rock, rubber and hate… the waves were big, and there was always the threat of being smashed against weird sharp military debris on the shore…

    Nicely written! I enjoyed this.


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