Hidden in the depths of the world’s largest wreck, the SS President Coolidge, in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, there are plenty of treasures to uncover. At 615 feet (187 m) long, you’ll need multiple dives to properly appreciate its immensity. Here are our picks for the top 10 treasures to seek on the SS President Coolidge.
The barber’s chair
In Cargo Hold No. 2, this unlikely underwater find is an eerie reminder of the wreck’s former life above the waves. Still clearly recognizable as a barber’s chair, it sits in an alcove near the opening of the cargo hold.
The ship’s doctor had a large supply of medical supplies to treat the hundreds of sailors on board, and they still rest neatly on the shelves of his surgery. There are bottles of all types of medicine, a syringe, a thermometer and a number of ampoules. Located on B Deck, the entrance is through hold No. 5.
Nessie the giant moray eel
Nessie has called the Coolidge home for as long as anyone can remember and has been fed by divers over the years. She’s one of the largest moray eels you’ll ever see, and you’ll usually find her in one of two large winches near the bow.
You’ll see lots of discarded ammunition as you explore the ship, including neatly stacked piles of heavy-caliber shells, bullets and shells scattered at the bottom of the cargo holds and on the sea floor. On the ship’s hull as you hover over porthole windows, you’ll find a pile of rifles have been here so long they are covered in coating coral.
Gauges and controls in the engine control room
The engine room is about two-thirds of the way along the ship, accessible through a large hole cut in the hull years ago by salvagers. As your eyes adjust to the dark, the enormous motors come into view. Through small hatch on the left the control room has a large number of gauges, still showing the levels of steam pressure when the ship sank.
Deep inside cargo hold No. 2, look into the dark corners and turn your torch off. Before long you’ll start seeing tiny flashes of light as the flashlight fish come into view. The fish have two bean-shaped, torch-like organs under their eyes containing bioluminescent bacteria, which they can turn on and off by blinking.
The toilet block
Almost at the center of the ship, you may find yourself swimming down a long corridor with a row of toilets on the wall beside you. This rather strange angle to view a toilet seat offers a perfect spot for a selfie or a snap of you and your buddy attempting to sit on one.
Gas masks and Coke bottles
Outside the ship on the hull is an old gasoline drum with a bunch of goodies inside. These include old gas masks, a few tin mugs, and 75-year old Coca-Cola bottles, which offer a bit of fun for photos.
On your last decompression stop at 15 feet (5 m), there’s a beautiful anemone garden, with anemonefish of all different sizes darting around anemones of all different colors and shapes. Look closely for tiny shrimp among the tendrils, and under the rocks and coral for larger mantis shrimp.
The Holy Grail of the Coolidge, The Lady is the one treasure that every diver wants to see. The Lady is an old bas-relief statue of an Elizabethan ‘lady’ riding a horse with a long-flowing tail. She’s wearing a red and gold dress with a wide white ruff framing her delicate features. It’s a long-held divers’ tradition to kiss the Lady, although some divers say the tradition is actually to kiss the horse that she’s riding on.
The Lady was once in the ship’s first-class smoking room, but after a fall, she was moved to a safer position in the dining room and fixed securely to a wall at the far end of the room. She sits at 128 feet (39 m), so you won’t have long to visit, but before you kiss The Lady, spend a bit of time looking at her finely carved features. She really is a treasure.