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War made beautiful: Scuba-dive though wrecks

In Papua New Guinea, a Second World War wreck has become a beautiful, vibrant reef.

Darryl Leniuk/Darryl Leniuk


Scuba-dive in Second World War wrecks, where tragic events of the past have become beautiful, vibrant reefs.


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On Oct. 6, 1942, the American troop carrier SS President Coolidge was en route to Vanuatu when it was sunk accidentally by American mines entering the harbour at Espirito Santo. (All but two of the crew escaped.) Today, the 199-metre ship rests 20 to 70 metres deep and is regarded as a top wreck dive. You'll need up to a week to fully explore it. There are holds containing jeeps and GMC trucks, a medical office still stocked with supplies and "The Lady," a ceramic figurine of a woman and unicorn in the first-class dining saloon that dates from the ship's prewar life as a luxury liner.

In Papua New Guinea, submerged Second World War fighter jets are discovered every year. One of the best is the "Blackjack" B17 Bomber, located 40 metres underwater in the remote Cape Vogel area. Covered in soft coral, the wreck is still intact, its cockpit open and tail gun at the ready. Brightly coloured angelfish make their home in the fuselage.

Truk Lagoon, 5,400 kilometres southwest of Hawaii, is home to one of the largest losses of military hardware in the Second World War. About 70 ships and 200 aircraft were downed, creating the world's premier wreck diving site. Most of the wrecks lie within recreational diving depths, in clear water, and are covered in coral and marine life. The underwater museum is a treasure trove of artifacts: sake bottles, silverware and surgical instruments still lie untouched more than 65 years later. Gas masks, guns and torpedoes can be found in many of the ship's holds, and the personal effects of the crew, such as bicycles and work boots, add an eerie reminder of the human toll. Book on a weeklong trip with the dive vessel Truk Odyssey and explore the Fujikawa Maru; enter the ship's hold to find disassembled Zero fighter aircraft, en route to the airbase it never reached.


Divers, war buffs and those who would rather hang out with fish than other tourists.


Papua New Guinea:

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Truk Lagoon:

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