Dear F&F, September 27th – 29th, 2011 (Eastern Hemisphere)
We arrived at Luganville\’s \”Segond Channel\” just about 8 pm local time. It was completely dark and all the navigation lights on the charts either were not working or had changed their light patterns! Welcome to navigating in the \”back of beyond\”!
We came in through this very famous body of water in nice calm conditions. It was here that Admiral McCain (Grandfather of U.S. Senator John McCain) flew over this island and declared it would become the forward base in the Pacific to halt the Japanese advance in early 1942. This channel once had over 100 Allied ships anchored including Air Craft Carriers and Battleships. Over a half a million Allied personnel came through here during the war years. It is home to two famous ship wrecks; both lost to \”friendly fire\”.
\”SS President Coolidge\” struck two mines while entering the channel and has become a diving/tourist Mecca for this remote island nation in the Southwest Pacific.
The Coolidge is in between 65 feet (20 meters) and 200 feet (60 meters) of water and offers potentially days of diving to completely explore her.
The \”USS Tucker\” was also unaware that mines had recently been laid (24 hours before her loss, two weeks before the loss of \”Coolidge\”), violently exploded and sank at the opposite end of the channel. Two men were lost on Coolidge and six men on Tucker. Due to the loss of equipment being shipped on Coolidge, it caused a several month delay in resupply and rotation of U.S. Marines at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands; about 700 miles north of here.
Anja and I did the first dive as a \”check out dive\”. Despite our experience and advanced certifications, the dive operator is very prudent on a first dive on Coolidge. Divers have been lost on this wreck! Our second dive would also be our last as we do need to move on to Port Villa 150 miles to our south starting tomorrow. We passed on the other famous dive here, \”Million Dollar Point\”. This site and point were so named as departing US troops shoved millions of dollars of mostly heavy equipment into the ocean before departing at the end of WW2.
On our second dive on Coolidge, we entered the ship\’s forward cargo holds #1 & #2. Here we saw small tanks, air craft fuel tanks, heavy equipment, gun shells and lots of military equipment.
These dives are all decompression dives and guides are required. A decompression dive is an advanced dive where to remove excess nitrogen build up from our bodies, we have to wait at set depths for a period of time to \”out gas\”. This prevents us from getting \”the bends\”. I had a required 10 minute stop on both dives, more than sufficient air and no worries. My dive computer is extremely conservative. Some of the divers had NO required stop times on their more liberal dive computers. We were quite tired after our sail here and I wanted the next day off. Anja used the time to do some land touring which I\’ll hear about later tonight.
We had a lovely gathering of M/V \”Oso Blanco\”, M/V \”Mystery Ship\”, S/V – can\’t remember, will add later! and S/V \”Beach House\” crews. We all had drinks and puu puu\’s aboard \”Mystery Ship\” and dinner at the local Aore Island Resort.
Today I\’m getting \”Beach House\” ready for our last 150 miles to Port Villa where we will start out tomorrow via Malakula Island and perhaps Havana Harbor on Efate Island before arrival at Port Villa. Port Villa is the capitol of Vanuatu. A mini surprise will then be revealed!….
Stay tuned, Scott with touring Anja!