FIRST CLASS SMOKING ROOM - THE LADY AND THE TOILETS (Maximum depth 48m)
The Coolidge is, of course, famous apart from its size for two things. The first is "The Lady". This was a ceramic figurine of a lady sitting astride a "horse" (actually a unicorn, but the horn has broken off) that used to site on the wall above the fireplace in the First Class Smoking Room. Everyone who dived the Coolidge wanted to see this amazing item which after more than 50 years still retained its colour.
Apparently the figurine was covered up when she was in war service as Alan Power (who has dived the ship more times than anyone else) states that he did not notice "The Lady" for many years after he first started diving the wreck (from about 1969 till 1981).
The smoking lounge -
the "Lady" is on the top right
A painting of "The Lady" showing how she looks now
However, in the early hours of 26 Janaury 2000, The Lady fell off the wall (more about this later). The First Class Smoking Room used to be accessed via a door off the Promenade Deck. After dropping through, you moved towards the stern and dropped a bit further. Soon you saw where The Lady was located. To the left there was the fireplace and on the right of this was where The Lady was attached to the wall. Below are the remains of hundreds of beds that were set up in the smoking room. The section of wall that holds the Lady had fallen about 500mm or more till late 1999. This was caused by corrosion and a number of earthquakes, most in early-mid 1999.
As of September 1999 it was in a fairly worrying condition and was being held by a rope. The Lady itself had two large cracks in it, one at the top and one at the right. I prophesised in September 1998 that "there is a great likelihood that the Lady will collapse and be destroyed within a year or two if there are more earthquakes". Well, on 26 January 2000 The Lady fell but luckily she floated down and out a doorway onto the lower Promenade Deck where she landed with minor damage. From here the local dive operators moved her to the outside of the wreck. On 29 January 2000 she was removed from the water and then later returned (stupidly in my opinion) to the wreck after perhaps some restoration. In my view it should have been retained on shore, restored and placed on display in the Santo Hotel and a replica put back on the wreck.
|Mayumi Green and The Lady after the salvage|
Photo courtesy of Mayumi Green
This was allegedly done due to pressure from Australian dive shop owners as they were of the opinion that all divers wanted to see (and kiss - where did this habit come from - it appears to have started between 1995 and 1998) the Lady on the wreck. Any diver who goes to the Coolidge just to see the Lady in situ is not a diver I would want to dive with. Get a life!!! Anyway, after this the Lady was relocated into the First Class Dining Room. More about this on that page.
Anyway, in 2001, the whole roof of the First Class Smoking Room collapsed downwards, pulling the Promenade Deck with it. This almost totally destroyed the Room, although it was still accessible. I did not go in there on my October 2002 trip but you could still enter it. Since then it has collapsed even further and is now totally wrecked, although you could probably still get into parts of it if you tried.
The floor of the Smoking Lounge was covered with green and vermilion rubber tiles that were still visible. On your left as you swam to the bow there were some very ornate lights.
The second thing that everyone wanted to see were the toilets. Installed for the large number of troops being carried, three rows of toilets were placed on the promenade deck on the starboard side of the ship just near The Lady. You turned around after seeing The Lady and rose a bit. Straight ahead, just beyond the door through which you entered you saw the toilets. As a result of an earthquake in mid-1991 the upper row fell to the floor (wall) below. In early to mid-1999 another earthquake caused six of this same row to fall all the way to the bottom of the Smoking Room.
|Two of the three rows of toilets|
There were a total of 41 toilets. These used to be as follows:- one row of 15 and two rows of 13 (at least that is what I counted when there and when I checked my video - although a book says there are 45). On the top row the second last one (as you move forward) was smashed to pieces (13 in this row), the next row of 13 was intact and the bottom row of 15 had the second one smashed totally and the second last one was broken. This row is the one that had six fall to the bottom of the room so there were only 9 toilets in this row. There were no further breakages. There were two urinals at the far end of the toilets. The toilets apparently had a divider between the rows (not between each toilet) and it would have been very cosy indeed, especially in rough seas! As a result of the collapse of the First Class Smoking Room, these toilets were further damaged and you could still see the remaining ones through the Promenade Deck doors/windows and could still enter and swim along them, coming out in the Continental Lounge. The fate of the toilets that fell in 1991 and 1999 are unknown.
However, the whole section of superstructure from the rear of the First Class Smoking Lounge to the rear end of the Continental Lounge (including The Lobby) has collapsed so that in mid-2007 the toilets are now outside. There are two rows visible.
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