SS Coolidge Dive History
The SS President Coolidge was built by the Dollar Steamship Company in 1931. Its identical twin was the SS President Hoover - both were approximately 198 meters (654 feet) long and the largest merchant ships built in the US to that time.
The ship was tastefully decorated in art deco style and no expense was spared on the lavish furnishings in the spacious public rooms, staterooms and lounges. Each room had its own telephone and many had connecting bathrooms. Every need was catered for. On board there were two saltwater swimming pools, a barbers shop, stock exchange, gymnasium, beauty salon and soda fountain.
The Coolidge was aimed at holiday makers seeking sun in the Pacific and Far East. During her time as a luxury liner, she broke several speed records on her frequent trips to Japan from San Francisco. Her WWII efforts began by evacuating Americans from Hong Kong when Japanese-British relations became strained in 1940. She was later to assist in the evacuations of many people from Asia as the Japanese increased aggression. In June 1941, the Coolidge went into service with the American Army as a transport ship for reinforcing garrisons in the Pacific. A few months later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. After this, the Coolidge was stripped of her finery, painted gray, mounted with guns and turned into a troop ship. Many of the fixtures and fittings were removed or boarded up for protection. After full conversion in 1942, she could carry over 5000 troop.
She was assigned to carry troop from the US to the Pacific in October 1942 and as she entered the Segond Chanel, Santo, hit a "friendly" mine and sank in less than 90 minutes. The 5000 troops disembarked in an orderly manner, as the ship was beached - many even walked to shore. After the war came salvage operations which recovered items such as the propeller blades, bunker oil, brass casings of shells, steam turbines, junction boxes and copper tubing. However, from 18 November 1983 the Vanuatu government declared that no salvage or recovery of any artefact is allowed from the Coolidge. Since then the ship has been used for recreational diving.
For a more in depth account of the ship, we recommend reading "The Lady and the President - The Life and Loss of the SS President Coolidge" by Peter Stone.