Destination

South Pacific

Destination Vanuatu Paradise logo
29th edition
        2019

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Espiritu Santo:
             its history

 

Espiritu Santo, more commonly known as Santo,
is the largest island in Vanuatu with an overall
area of some 4000 km2. It owes its name to Queiros who, convinced he had discovered the Austral continent, called the country
“Terra Australia del Espiritu Santo” back in 1606

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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Some historical facts

Because of its size and its strategic geographic location unmatched by the other islands of Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo became a major military base for the American Forces during the Second World War. Literally an advanced post for access to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Santo boasted several airstrips, four hospitals, with significant port facilities in Luganville, and row upon row of Quonset Huts! Some thirty film theatres were counted at one time! There are still lots of reminders of the American presence even today, both in Luganville itself and all over the island: aircraft wrecks in the bush (the American army is still looking for remains), airstrips, anti-submarine cables, warehouses, prisons.

Million Dollar Point

The most spectacular sight has to be “Million Dollar Point“, where the Americans simply dumped all their gear and equipment into the sea at the end of the war - lorries, bulldozers, trucks, containers, forklifts, and all have come to rest, both close to the surface and

 

 

James Albert Michener

This US Navy Lieutenant Commander who was assigned to the South Pacific as a naval historian, drew inspiration from his surroundings to write his famous book “Tales of the South Pacific“, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is about love stories in war-torn times, that of a young Marine and a beautiful Tonkinese, daughter of Bloody-Mary, and of Nurse Nellie and a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (his hexagonal house still stands today, and belongs to the plantation owner’s family). All set against the backdrop of a paradise inspired by Espiritu Santo island. The story met with huge success and was even turned into a famous musical movie, “South Pacific”.

down  to a depth of 40 meters plus, just off the beach.

SS President Coolidge

For those who are keen wreck divers, there is even better on offer: a visit down to the SS President Coolidge, once a luxury liner, converted to a troop carrier for the war effort by the American Forces, which sank when it hit two of their very own mines on the 26th of October 1942.

At the time of the drama, it was carrying 5000 men on board, only two of whom lost their lives. This massive 200 meter long vessel now rests at between 20 and 70 meters’ depth. The holds are still full of war equipment and vehicles. Ammunition, helmets and rifles still haunt the passageways while crockery and china chase around the kitchens…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Espiritu Santo: son histoire

L’île d’Espiritu Santo, plus communément appelée Santo, est la plus grande île de l’archipel avec une superficie d’environ 4000 km2.
Elle doit son nom à Queiros qui, persuadé d’avoir découvert les Terres Australes, baptisa l’archipel : « Terra Australia del Espiritu Santo »

Some historical facts

Because of its size and its strategic geographic location unmatched by the other islands of Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo became a major military base for the American Forces during the Second World War. Literally an advanced post for access to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Santo boasted several airstrips, four hospitals, with significant port facilities in Luganville, and row upon row of Quonset Huts! Some thirty film theatres were counted at one time! There are still lots of reminders of the American presence even today, both in Luganville itself and all over the island: aircraft wrecks in the bush (the American army is still looking for remains), airstrips, anti-submarine cables, warehouses, prisons.

Million Dollar Point

The most spectacular sight has to be “Million Dollar Point“, where the Americans simply dumped all their gear and equipment into the sea at the end of the war - lorries, bulldozers, trucks, containers, forklifts, and all have come to rest, both close to the surface and down  to a depth of 40 meters plus, just off the beach.

SS President Coolidge

For those who are keen wreck divers, there is even better on offer: a visit down to the SS President Coolidge, once a luxury liner, converted to a troop carrier for the war effort by the American Forces, which sank when it hit two of their very own mines on the 26th of October 1942.

At the time of the drama, it was carrying 5000 men on board, only two of whom lost their lives. This massive 200 meter long vessel now rests at between 20 and 70 meters’ depth. The holds are still full of war equipment and vehicles. Ammunition, helmets and rifles still haunt the passageways while crockery and china chase around the kitchens…

James Albert Michener

This US Navy Lieutenant Commander who was assigned to the South Pacific as a naval historian, drew inspiration from his surroundings to write his famous book “Tales of the South Pacific“, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948.

It is about love stories in war-torn times, that of a young Marine and a beautiful Tonkinese, daughter of Bloody-Mary, and of Nurse Nellie and a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (his hexagonal house still stands today, and belongs to the plantation owner’s family). All set against the backdrop of a paradise inspired by Espiritu Santo island. The story met with huge success and was even turned into a famous musical movie, “South Pacific”.