One in a Million Dollars


Watch the video here

By Maree Toogood

Dreaming of that long awaited holiday, want warm tropical nights, and time to laze away doing as much or as little as you want?

Espiritu Santo is the largest island in the Vanuatu archipelago. Santo has shipwrecks, rainforests, waterfalls and blue holes, but it’s the wreck diving that it’s most famous for. Home to the largest most accessible shipwreck in the world the SS President Coolidge. Some other great wreck dives not to be missed are the USS Tucker, the Henry Bonneaud and of course Million Dollar Point.

Divers from all over the world come the Santo to dive the Coolidge, but a dive to Million Dollar Point is not to be overlooked.

Million Dollar Point lays some 400 metres to the east of the wreck of the Coolidge. During World War II Santo housed the largest U.S. military base in the Pacific outside of Honolulu. After the war ended the U.S. was faced with the question, what do we do with all this equipment? The easiest solution was to dump it in the sea.

So that’s what they did. The multitude of equipment that they had used to build five airstrips, kilometres of road and a small township, was quite literally driven into the ocean.

Million Dollar Point was chosen for the dumpsite. As there were no trees lining the shoreline this seemed like the perfect place for the U.S. to rid themselves of everything that was no longer required by their armed forces. As trucks, bulldozers, forklifts, engines, tyres and all kinds of earthmoving equipment was dumped into the sea, thousands of tons of coral fill was pushed in on top to form a ramp which would served to drive more equipment over the edge. Everything was dumped at the point, and anything that wasn’t was either buried or burnt.

Finally after four months, at the end of 1945, most of the military equipment and spares had been disposed of. The remaining U.S. personnel could now return home, leaving in their wake a million dollar dumpsite.

Little did they realise that their actions would create an artificial reef for all manner of marine life, and form a fascinating playground for scuba divers from around the world. Along with the ordinance that was left behind after the war, various other artefacts have since been added. Divers will find a couple of small shipwrecks, the El Retiro, and the scrapped island trader the Dedelle. The El Retiro was sunk while salvaging equipment from the point. There is a fax machine and a microwave oven that have more than a few scratching their heads.

The wrecks of the El Retiro and the Dedelle being relatively shallow present snorkellers the unique opportunity of seeing a genuine shipwreck. Indeed Million Dollar Point can be a fulfilling snorkel for divers that don’t wish to sacrifice a dive on the Coolidge. However with so much to explore here a dive on the point is never wasted. Along the beach you can still see rusted machinery and axles, but it is below the surface that the full impact of the sheer waste is realised. The ocean slopes gradually down to 43 metres. A dive here is usually kept to a maximum of around 20 metres with plenty to see at this depth.

The photographic possibilities are boundless with a great diversity of marine life, which has made this their home with some unusual coral growth amongst the wreckage, and the visibility is usually between 10 to 25 metres.

The best place to stay whilst in Santo is the Deco Stop Lodge, run by Cathie de Koeyer. Cathie being an avid diver herself has catered well for divers staying with her, and provides full gear washing facilities and drying room, not to mention the Million Dollar view. (No I don’t mean you can see the point from here.)

Allan Power Dive Tours will see to all your diving needs, and operate daily dives to the President Coolidge and Million Dollar Point, providing a dive guide to ensure that you see the best that these magnificent sites have to offer.

Getting there is easy with Virgin Pacific and Air Vanuatu offering regular flights to the capital Port Vila from Brisbane and Sydney. Once in Vila, Santo is a short one-hour flight away. Air Vanuatu also offers direct flights to Santo from Brisbane weekly and Melbourne/Vila weekly.

One in a Million Dollars

Maree Toogood

Blackburn, Melbourne, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Published in Dive Log January ’08 addition

Regular trips are planned, 7 or 14 days to Santo to dive the Coolidge and then Hideaway Island in Vila, for some relaxation and spectacular reefs. If you are interested drop me an Email, and I will keep you informed. Anyone is welcome, diver, non diver, overseas or Australia. I will arrange everything.

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10% off

for joining the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.