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Grave of the President (1984)


The film follows a series of dives to one of the world’s biggest and most accessible shipwrecks, in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. It is a popular dive for scuba divers from all over the world.

In 1942, during the Second World War, a former ocean liner, converted to a troop carrier, the SS President Coolidge, was carrying troops and equipment to Espiritu Santo as part of the war effort. In an attempt to land the ship, the captain mistook the safe entry to the harbour and the ship accidentally struck two allied mines and sank.

The film uses black-and-white still photographs of the ship sinking and shows a reunion of the Second World War veterans who sailed on the ill-fated voyage, in Pennsylvania USA.

Curator’s notes

The diving sequences show aspects of the ship – the cargo holds containing army vehicles, a first class dining room, rows of lavatories installed to cope with the huge number of troops and swimming pool. The documentary is of particular interest to scuba divers. Director, writer, producer James Knox’s credits include, The Pitch, Postcards, Undercover Angels, Treasure Island and Getting Down to Business.