A Travellerspoint blog

Vanuatu: Diving on the USS Coolidge

Amazing wreck dive!...

overcast 28 °C

Today we did two amazing dives on the USS Coolidge. We went out with Alan Powers who has been diving on the Coolidge since 1969. As Alan puts it,"the only reason people come to Santo is to see the Coolidge, Alan Power and the other wrecks here".


During the war in the Pacific, the Coolidge was entering the harbor with about 5,000 troops aboard when she hit a mine in the harbor. The captain was able to beach her a few km from town and all but 2 people made it off the ship alive. When she finally sank, she slipped down the reef and now sits in water anywhere from 20 to 70 meters deep. Its amazing to think of a ship over 600 feet long sitting within walking distance of the shore.


On our first dive we toured along the outside of the ship from the bow down to a couple of the holds at the front of the ship. It was amazing how well preserved the ship was after all of these years and how much stuff is still down there after all these years.


Artillery rounds


And even rifles


As we went down below 35 meters on the dive, we had to make a couple of decompression stops on the way up.


Alan has built a lovely little coral garden to rest in while you are decompressing. He even provides treats to feed the fish while you wait.


After coming out of the water, we headed back to Alan's shop and enjoyed tea and biscuits on his beautiful deck


As usual, Gayla made friends with Jock, the resident Rotweiller/Doberman mix.


Since we were going deep again in the afternoon, we had to stay on the surface for a few hours. We decided to take a walk around the town to see what it was like. We walked over to the wonderful little waterfront park by our hotel. Most of the business close for a couple of hours at lunch and it seemed everyone headed to sit in the shade here.


After our break, we headed back out to the dive site for our second dive.


The tide was in so we had to walk out a bit farther.


This time we penetrated deeper into the ship going into the medical space.


And then passing through the ship into one of the hold where the jeeps were stored.


Back up to the surface


With another decompression stop


What a great day!!


If any of you are divers I recommend you put a dive of the USS Coolidge on your bucket list. We only saw a fraction of the ship, but it was one of the most amazing wreck dives ever. You could easily spend a week here.

Posted by TravelWithTom 13:00 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)


Arriving in Paradise...

Today we travelled to Vanuatu. After chilly autumn in New Zealand, stepping off the plane into the warm tropical air of Vanuatu was quite pleasant.


Our first stop in Vanuatu is the island of Espiritu Santo. This island served as an advanced base for the US forces during WWII. We stayed at a wonderful little place called Hotel Santo right in town. The hotel was run by an expat from Malawi. What a multicultural place.


As you can see by the stickers on the doors to our hotel, the main reason people come to Santo is to dive the various wrecks leftover from the war.


Tomorrow we plan to get out to see the USS Coolidge which is a large troop ship that sank right in the harbor.

Posted by TravelWithTom 23:25 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

New Zealand: Queen Charlotte Track

Views, views and more views...

Having heard so much about the multi-day tracks in New Zealand, we felt we had to try one before we left. After a quick night in Picton to wash clothes and reload our day packs we set off to sample the Queen Charlotte Track. This track is 71km long and traverses high ridges in the Marlborough Sounds area at the north end of the South Island. Most people take 4-5 days to do the whole track, but as time was short I decided to cover most of the track by MTB and Gayla hiked the last two days of the track.


We started by loading up on one of the many local water taxis for the hour long trip up the coast to the start of the track.


Before long I was dropped of at the Ferneaux Lodge and Gayla sailed away to start at the Punga Cove Resort. Did I mention that at the end of each day of the track you find a wonderful little lodge complete with restaurants and pubs? I could really get used to this Kiwi tramping. Tramping is what the Kiwis call hiking. As you can imagine we had fun with that. "Where do I find a good tramp?", "Is this a day tramp or and overnight tramp?", "Does the tramp provide accommodations?", you get the idea...


The Queen Charlotte Track is extremely well maintained, and while steep in spots and a little slick from the recent rains, we found it easy to make good time.


Of course the views along the way were stunning, so stopping to enjoy the scenery consumed much of our time.


Much of the track goes across private land, but the local group has done a good job keeping access open.


Look at that smiling face. Some one is having a good time.


On the first day, I was covering much more ground, but once each day Gayla and I would meet up and stop for a bite to eat...


...and to feed the Wekas. These guys are the pigeons of the area.


After a full day of hiking and biking, we found ourselves at the Portage Cove Resort.


This was the view from our room. Not to shabby huh?


The next morning after breakfast at the resort we headed back out.


The weather had taken a turn and we spent most of the day in a light drizzle.


While the visibility was reduced, the views were still amazing as we continued along the ridge line.


About 10km from the end, the track dropped down to the water at a beautiful little bay called Davies Cove.


From there it was an easy pedal to the end of the track at Anakiwa


Where we found a nice little coffee caravan to warm us while we waited for the boat back to Picton.


A short boat ride later we were back in Picton for a warm meal (local green lipped mussels) and a good night sleep.


Posted by TravelWithTom 14:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand: Sea Kayaking Abel Tasman NP, Day Three


The third day of our sea Kayaking adventure found us with better weather again. We set off from the houseboat for our paddle back.


Nice weather had many more birds out than the day before. Here is a bunch of Cormorants sunning on a rock. They are amazing birds that dive as much as 10 meters under the water to catch fish.


Later in the day we entered a part of the Abel Tasman Park that has been undergoing extensive habitat restoration by the Songbird Alliance. This is a group supported by contributions fromt the local tour operators and some outside donations that is trying to bring back the songbirds in the park by reducuing the predator population.


We stopped for lunch on a little beach on Adele Island. This island is one of the first places the group has been working and the number of bird on the island is amazing. It is definitely working!


After a bit more paddling we stopped for lunch at Coquille Bay and took a hike up to the Abel Tasman Track.


The veiws back down to the beach were amazing.


The before we knew it, we were back in Motueka where we stopped for some amazing fresh fruit ice cream. All in all a great trip.


Posted by TravelWithTom 14:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand: Sea Kayaking Abel Tasman NP, Day Two

Baby Seals...


What a difference a day can make. The weather was quite different as we woke up the next morning. Rain... Oh well, we were going to be wet all day anyway. We reluctantly left our warm beds at the Awaroa Lodge behind and paddled out.


We had a big day ahead of us and we had a fair bit of open ocean paddling to do so we headed out into the swells.

Our 02_Rainy_Paddle.jpg

Our first stop for the bay was to pull into an amazing little protected cove.


Our guide Kyle told us the story of the place and I wish I could remember more of it. Basically it served as the village where the local elders lived. It was well protected from the sea and easy to defend and had a high center section for the village.


It was here that we saw the first fur seals of the day.


Next we headed over to Tonga Island where we found an amazing baby seal nursery area. It seems we timed it just right and the fur seals that were all born back in December were at that right age to be precocious teenagers. They seemed to have no fear of us even jumping right up on our boats.


Swimming around us and letting us pet them as they went by was an amazing experience.


After the seals we stopped for lunch on yet another picture perfect beach and then headed south.


At this point I don't have any more photos of the day as this is when it really started raining. It was actually an amazing experience to be out on the water in the pelting rain. The rain was bucketing straight down and was making the water dance in a surreal sort of way. Believe it or not, the rain started as we entered Torrent Bay...


As beautiful as it was, we were all glad to see this boat. A floating backpackers lodge in the middle of Torrent Bay. A warm cozy place to spend a rainy night.


Posted by TravelWithTom 22:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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