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Polynesia - Espiritu Santo

Courtesy of OceanIslandTravel.com

Million Dollar Point

Canal du Segond
Vanuatu ‎

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-15.549953, 167.150066

Overview of Million Dollar Point

Million Dollar Point is located on Segond Channel less than a kilometre to the east of the Coolidge. At the end of the war, the Americans had insufficient space on its ships returning to the US to fit all the masses of equipment that had accumulated in Vanuatu. It was considered, quite reasonably, that the space was needed to take the hundreds of thousands of troops home rather than the equipment.

Additionally, it was also thought that if all the equipment returned to the US, it could severely affect the US economy as no-one would want to buy new trucks, bulldozers or jeeps when they could pick up a very cheap ex-Army one. It has also been reported that the vehicle/equipment manufacturers actually had clauses in their contracts with the US Government which forbid the return of equipment sent overseas. This was to protect their post-war market in the USA. I am not sure if this is true, but it could be correct.

Before and during the War, most of the non-native residents of Santo were French. Apparently the US offered to sell all the surplus equipment to the residents and/or the Colonial (French-English) Government (possibly to the residents via the Government) at a very low price. However, in a gamble that failed, the residents and the Government refused to pay in the expected 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.

The American Army lined up all the surplus equipment on the shore with engines running. Hand throttles were slammed on and bricks placed on accelerators and the equipment rumbled into the channel, disappearing into water 35 metres deep just a few metres off the shore. From that day on, the site received its name due to the (then) value of the equipment dumped into the water.

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 salvaged 14 bulldozers and hundreds of tyres in 1948/9. He first dragged one bulldozer out, washed it in freshwater, put in new oil, batteries and electrics. It then started. He then used this dozer to pull the other ones out. The bulldozers, despite being in the water for more than three years, were apparently in pretty good condition (just shows the quality of US goods then). 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. However, the tyres which were sold to locals, suffered different fates. The ones which were on rims soon collapsed as they rusted to pieces. The ones not on rims were almost as good as new tyres once installed on new rims.

One of the first things you can see is the wreck of the Dedele, 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 minutes gives you a good look around the whole ship. Under the wreck there are a number of tracked cranes. From the stern of the wreck, head west again.

After leaving the wreck, keep following the wreckage to the west along the sand bottom (about 35 metres) 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 still see many bulldozers with lots of tracked excavators, graders, forklift trucks, tractors, steam-rollers, motorised 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.

After about 25 minutes of the dive the equipment peters out a bit so it is time to return to your starting point. Come up a bit into the 15 metre range for the return trip and you will see more wreckage. Steering wheels, spare tyres, Coke bottles and other items abound everywhere.

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Million Dollar Point is an awesome place to dive. There are lots of World War 2 machinery, vehicles and boats under the water and thousands of different fish have made it their home.  - Courtesy of OceanIslandTravel.com

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  • Santo Safari Tours - Santo Safari Tours has been operating in Luganville Town, Espiritu Santo for over 10 years and in 2009 we expanded our fleet and services to provide f...

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