Report on a Classic Destination:


(formerly the New Hebrides)

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Over the years I have enjoyed a number of adventures diving in Vanuatu. Vanuatu is a charming country of 83 islands and over 217,000 people, where earthquakes occur about four times each day and you can climb an active volcano, Ambrym, which last erupted in 1913.


Among divers, Vanuatu is best known for the astonishing wreck of the S.S. President Coolidge, which on October 26, 1942 entered an allied minefield, uninformed of itbecause of wartime radio silence. Two explosions ripped apart the aft fire room and the engine room.. The Captain, knowing the ship was mortally wounded,ordered itrammed onto the reef. Almost the entire crew escaped, but the ship then rolled onto its port side and slipped backward to where she lies today.

My friend Allan Power has made over 12,000 dives on that wreck, whose shallowest portions (the bow and bridge) are easily reached at depths of 80-130 feet. Enormous black corals grow in great profusion under her bow, and a bridge cannon on her starboard (upper) side is a phenomenal prop for underwater photography. You can enter the bridge and side passageways (a somewhat haunting experience).

All in all, this immense wreck is one of the most impressive a sport diver will ever see. A huge grouper named Boris was for a time a fixture for visiting photographers, until he met an untimely end, presumably at the hands of a local fisherman.

There are some other very impressive dives in Vanuatu. Two of the most notable in my experience are Hog Island and Pentecost Island. Hog Island has a spectacular vertical wall where our divers encountered chambered nautilus on a night dive at depths of fifty feet.

The other stunner is Pentecost Island, itself worth the entire visit to Vanuatu. In the shallow reef areas right off shore we enjoyed diving on a World War II U.S. Navy fighter-bomber near some magnificent reefs covered with radiant soft coral colonies.

The Pentecost Islanders were very friendly, even putting on a ceremonial dance for us. This village is also home to the world-famous Land Divers. The men of the village swan-dive off a tall tower with vines attached to their ankles. As they fall headfirst, the carefully-measured vines stop their fall as their heads brush the dirt! “Unforgettable” is a huge understatement!

I hope you, too, will one day share these exotic wonders in a country that is off the beaten track for divers—but intensely rewarding to those who seek it out.

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