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Liberty Shipwreck - Tulamben

Liberty Shipwreck at a Glance

Depth: 5 - 40 m
Currents: nil
Season: Any

The wreck of the USAT Liberty is easily the most popular dive site in Bali. Not only is there the attraction of the wreck itself, but on and around it is the most extraordinary diversity of marine life. You'll find everything from common Trevally to the rare pygmy seahorse.

The wreck has its origins in the morning of 11 January 1942, when the Liberty was passing through the Lombok Strait as part of a convoy of ships bringing supplies from Australia to the Allies in the Philippines. The liberty was a freighter, built in New Jersey in 1918, and conscripted to help the war effort, and was reportedly carrying rubber and railroad parts. At 4:15 in the morning, Japanese submarine I-166 got the Liberty in their sites and sent a torpedo into it. Although badly damaged, the Liberty did not sink. Two destroyers escorting the convoy took the crippled ship under tow, making for Singaraja on the north coast, where they hoped the ship could be repaired. Unfortunately, the Liberty began taking on too much water and was beached at Tulamben.

The Liberty sat grounded on the beach for a little more than twenty years, during which time her cargo and other valuable items were salvaged. Then, in 1963, the nearby Agung volcano erupted, sending out violent earthquakes which rolled the Liberty into deeper water and breaking the ship at the bow and stern.

You approach the wreck from the shore - not as easy as it sounds, since the 'beach' here is covered with large stones bigger than your fist. There no graceful way to make your way out to a depth where you can inflat your BCD and put on your fins. Expect to get a few bruises on your knees on the way in or out. The top of the wreck is around 5 meters down. You'll most likely come up on the Liberty from the stern.

The entire wreck is almost complete covered with various kinds of growths. Some of the most interesting sights are around the crumpled top-side. Look carefully at the fan corals, and you might find the rare pygmy seahorse. They're not much bigger than a flea, and the same color as the coral, so they're hard to spot.