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Special exhibition of world-famous Coolidge wreck to open in Vanuatu

The new exhibition will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. President Coolidge, now a globally renowned dive site


          santo               screenshot nh 2022 10 24 at 100807 AM

            Pictured L: S.S. President Coolidge wreck dive site, Vanuatu                          Pictured R: The Elwood J Euart memorial, Vanuatu

Media Release - Port Vila, 20 October 2022: Vanuatu’s South Pacific WWII Museum has announced the opening of a special exhibition featuring never-before-seen artefacts from the S.S. President Coolidge, in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the ship’s sinking in 1942.

The special two-week exhibition will open on 26 October 2022, the day of the ship’s sinking 80 years prior, at the museum in Luganville, on Espiritu Santo, and will display never-before-seen Coolidge items recovered from the wreck before it was listed as a heritage site by the Vanuatu Government in 1972.

Exhibition items will include the ship’s original bell, on public display for the first time, as well as one of the ship’s whistles, which was recovered from the sea floor. Having come to life following a significant restoration, the whistle will ring out on 26 October to celebrate the opening of the exhibition and the ‘voice of the Coolidge’ will be heard for the first time in 80 years.

A famous dive site, the Coolidge is widely recognised as one of the best wreck dives of its type in the world, thanks to its accessibility. A holiday highlight in Vanuatu, both experienced and amateur divers can explore the hidden underwater world and history of the Coolidge.

Constructed in 1931 as a passenger ship, the S.S. President Coolidge was put into action in 1941, ferrying American troops to the war front during the Second World War. One year later, off the coast of Luganville on Espiritu Santo, the ship tragically sunk after it struck two
sea mines protecting the harbour from Japanese submarines.

The Coolidge was deliberately driven onto the reef by her captain, Elwood J.Euart, to enable the more than 5,000 U.S. soldiers on board to make it safely ashore. The only two casualties were the ship’s fireman and the captain himself, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism.

The commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Coolidge’s sinking, hosted by the South Pacific WWII Museum on October 26, will honour the role the ship plays in Vanuatu’s WWII history and remember the lives lost. In addition to a commemorative ceremony at Captain Euart’s memorial and the opening of the special Coolidge exhibition, both sponsored by the Vanuatu Tourism Office, commemorative dives will take place, attended by a host of international divers paying tribute to the wreck’s famous history.

Vanuatu Tourism Office Short Haul Markets Manager, Paul Pio says, "Historical or heritage tourism means travelling with the primary purpose of exploring the history and heritage of a place. People visiting Espiritu Santo can combine their love of history with other tourist delights, such as the famous SSS President Coolidge diving expeditions.”

The Vanuatu Tourism Office continues to enhance consumer and trade understanding about the diving market offering in Vanuatu but in particularly in Santo with the SS President Coolidge as a key icon for our diving target market in the United States. Our upcoming DEMA show and market visits will continue to highlight this product offering and its experiences.

To learn more about Vanuatu’s history, must-visit dive sites and for more inspiration on visiting Vanuatu, head to www.vanuatu.travel

For more information on the anniversary events at the South Pacific WWII Museum, head to www.southpacificwwiimuseum.com