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    Million Dollar Point Espiritu Santo | Sanma Province Vanuatu (New Hebrides)

Location
Million Dollar Point is located on the southeastern corner of Luganville (Santo) of Espiritu Santo. Nicknamed "Million Dollar Point" for the presumed value of all the U. S. equipment dumped into the sea at this location at the end of the Pacific War. To the east is Scorff Passage with the safe shipping approach for vessels into Segond Channel. To the west is Segond Channel and the shipwreck of SS President Coolidge.

Wartime History
At the end of the Pacific War, American forces dumped millions of dollars worth of equipment into the sea at this location, creating a monument to the futility of war; Located less than half a mile from the resting place of the President Coolidge, is a dive on surplus trucks, bulldozers and cranes that would have been too expensive to ship back to the US and instead were sunk.

Postwar, the U. S. military offered to sell all the surplus equipment to the local government at a very low price. However, in a gamble that failed, the local government refused to pay in the knowledge that the Americans could only fit a small amount of the equipment onto their ships. The thought in the back of their minds was that the Americans would just up and leave and the equipment would be theirs to have free of charge. This was a bad tactic as the Americans had other ideas.

After the war, there was some salvaging of the equipment by locals and fortune seekers. Reece Discombe, a New Zealander now resident in Port Vila, states that during 1948-1949 he salvaged 14 bulldozers and hundreds of tires. The bulldozers, despite being in the water for more than three years, were simply dragged out, washed in freshwater, new oil, batteries and electrics installed and they started. These dozers were sent to Australia where they were sold to the Joint Coal Board of New South Wales, Australia. He also reports that he salvaged propellers, propeller shafts, copper and copper wire.

If it was located anywhere other than a few kilometers from the SS President Coolidge shipwreck, Million Dollar Point would be a major attraction in its own right, attracting divers from all over the world. As it is, the site is an excellent second dive after a deep morning dive on the Coolidge. This is an extremely easy dive, either from the shore (so long as the seas are flat) or from a boat. As soon as you enter the water, masses of equipment can be seen. One of the first things you can see is the wreck of the Jedele (also reported as the Dedelle), a small island trader that was scuttled at Million Dollar Point in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It is the first thing seen as you approach from the eastern end of the site with its bow pointing up to the sun.

Five or ten minutes gives you a good look around the whole ship. Under the wreck there are a number of tracked cranes. After leaving the wreck, start following the wreckage to the west along the sand bottom (about 35 meters) and you will be amazed by the type and quantity of equipment dumped here. As well as dozens of six wheel drive Studebaker or General Motors trucks and Willys jeeps, you will see bulldozers, tracked excavators, graders, forklift trucks, tractors, steam-rollers, motorized scrappers, low loaders, prime movers, semi-trailers and even scaffolding. It is sometimes hard to figure out exactly what you are looking at, things are so intertwined.

Come up a bit into the 15 meter range for the return trip and you will see more wreckage. Steering wheels, spare tires, Coke bottles and other items abound everywhere. Soon you see another shipwreck. This vessel is the El Retiro, a 600 ton vessel, which was being used by Donald Gubbay in a salvage attempt (both above and below the water). This ship was apparently anchored while salvaging the equipment (in the late 1940s or early 50s). When the tide went out, it is rumored that a dozer blade went though the hull and it sank but Peter Stone in his book The Lady and the President - The Life and Loss of the S.S. President Coolidge, says that Reece Discombe (a famous early diver and discoverer of La Pérouse [Laperouse] ships) told him that the ship sank when the wind blew the ship close to shore and then the tide went out and the hull was pierced by something, but not a bulldozer blade as he had never seen one in that area. Just desserts some may say. There is very good coral growth on the wreck and excellent fish life in this shallower area. Further along you come across what looks like packs of sheets of corrugated iron in between trucks and dozers.

Eventually you return to the bow of the Jedele. There was a lot of material salvaged during the late 1940s and 1950s but even so, there is still a huge amount of equipment left to see.

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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