Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Photo by Corinne Bourbeillon / PBdA

Liberty forever

#Bali # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Lombok + Bali + Bangka - July 2015

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 


Ah! How I love the wreckage of the Libertyin Bali. I go back to dive there regularly, without ever getting tired of it. She's so beautiful...

Back to the Libertythirteen years later

As time goes by... I just checked in my old diving logs: my very first immersion on the wreck of the LibertyThe first documented case of a new project in Tulamben, northeast Bali, Indonesia, dates back to... June 28, 2002 ! Depth reached at the time: 27.8 m. Then as a young Open Water (first level in the American Padi certification system), I had only 16 dives on the meter !!

July 2015. Thirteen years later, I am Rescue Diver (3th Padi level, passed in March 2009), I have nearly 650 logged dives in my logbooks and a bulky underwater camera in my hands. This is my fourth or fifth stay in the beautiful Balinese region of Tulamben / Amed and I dive again on the Liberty.

Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Play of light on the sunken and gorgonian-covered remains of the Liberty wreck, in front of Tulamben beach in Bali. (Indonesia, July 2015)

Wonder intact, sensations not blunted. Throughout the week, I do a series of dives on the wreck, without tiring. As in 2002, then in 2008 and again in 2011 and 2012...

Years go by, but every time I visit, the Liberty do not betray previous memories. The site is still beautiful. A safe bet I would cry for happiness.

More to read → All my articles on the Liberty in Bali

Because the wreck of the Liberty is a very (over)frequented tourist attraction. And it wouldn't be the first site to fall victim to its success in Bali. But so far, so good...

Every day, however, hundreds of divers turn the wreck into a jacuzzi with their bubbles. To avoid the crowds, the trick is to come and dive very early, at daybreak.

Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
The wreck of the Liberty. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Impressive pink and orange gorgonians developed on the wreck of the Liberty, which over the years became a splendid artificial reef well colonized by the fixed coral fauna. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)

Libertythe magical wreck

So here I am underwater again. After a few strokes of the flippers, the shadow of the wreck becomes clearer. Huge! 

I'm shooting the exuberant soft corals that color the scrap metal. I come face to face with the humpback parrots - they are still there, O joy! I go down into the 30-metre zone, inspecting the gorgonian gorgonian seahorse that serves as a home for timid pygmy seahorses. I play with a shoal of glass fish taking refuge behind a piece of sheet metal. I turn my guide Wayan into a Chinese shadow on the way back, in the frame of the huge rudder... This wreck is magical.

The site is gigantic, it's a fabulous playground with inexhaustible charms. Impossible to be jaded!

Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
My guide Wayan seems very small next to the gigantic sunken ship. (Liberty Wreck, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
The wreck of the Liberty is huge! (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Large coloured sponges have covered some of the structures. (Wreck of the Liberty, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Here, gorgonians and alcyonians compete for the remains of the Liberty. (Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
A simple torch is all it takes to explore the wreckage of the Liberty. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
The humpback parrots of the Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Humpback parrots are regulars at the wreck of the Liberty. We usually have a good chance of encountering them early in the morning, just after sunrise. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
The dance of the glass fish... (Wreck of the Liberty, Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
My guide Wayan poses in the frame formed by the ship's gigantic rudder. (Wreck of the Liberty, Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)

The history of Liberty

Vessel USAT Liberty, before becoming Bali's most famous dive site, has a long history. It is a 125-metre-long US Army cargo ship, which left the Kearny Shipyards in New Jersey in 1918, at the end of World War I, and was assigned to transatlantic cargo missions.

He made his first crossing, from New York to Brest, with a cargo of horses, and made several other trips before disarming in May 1919.

In November 1940, the ship returned to military command. When the United States entered the Second World War in December 1941, the Liberty is in the Pacific.

Hooked: the Liberty when it left the shipyard in 1918. On the right, the Liberty in 1941. (Photos: navsource.org)
On the left: the Liberty as she left the shipyard in 1918. On the right, the Liberty in 1941. (Photos: navsource.org)

On 11 January 1942, during a crossing between Australia and the Philippines, with a load of railway ties and rubber, she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, about ten nautical miles (19 km) south-west of the strait between Bali and Lombok.

Two destroyers, one American, the other Dutch, attempt to tow it to the port of Singaraja on the north coast of Bali. But the freighter, too badly damaged, takes on water. The decision is made to beach it on the east coast of Bali, in Tulamben, in order to recover parts of the ship and its cargo. It remains there, in the bay, until the 1960s.

Tulamben is right at the foot of the mighty volcano. Agung...who wakes up in early 1963.

Violent eruptions, accompanied by seismic tremors, explosions, lava flows and fiery clouds, have left some 2,000 people dead and 100,000 homeless in Bali. They also sink the Liberty, which lies on its side and slides to the bottom of Tulamben Bay.

Photos and illustration of the Gunung Agung eruption in 1963. (Sources: volcano.si.edu / dgi-indonesia.com)
Photos and illustration of the eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963. (Sources: volcano.si.edu / dgi-indonesia.com)

Since then, the wreck, broken, still lies there, between 6 and 35 meters deep, close to the shore. The sunken ship has become an artificial reef, colonized for more than half a century by countless multicoloured corals.

It shelters a very rich fauna, where you can find everything from the smallest (pygmy seahorses, nudibranches, scorpion fish, leaf fish, ghost pipe fish, shrimps, moray eels...) to the most imposing (humpback parrot fish, schools of jacks, napoleons, a few sharks and turtles).

Plan of Liberty.
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
The immense wreck and its structures remain very impressive, almost sixty years after the Liberty sank. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
The wreck was heavily colonized by fixed underwater fauna. (Wreck of the Liberty, Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)
Diving on the wreck of Liberty. Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Can't get enough of the wreckage of the Liberty! (Bali, Indonesia, July 2015)

See also my previous articles of 2008 on the Liberty :

Dive without getting wet
Liberty, Bali's most famous wreck
The Liberty wreck in video
I like Amed

Special underwater photographers: every time I go back dive on the wreck of Liberty, I move to Liberty Dive Resorta stone's throw from the wreckage. It allows you to dive there early in the morning, and, most importantly, they provide you with a private guide, for no more money than anywhere else. We are not bothered by a hoist, it's the great luxury! It's not the small resort it used to be, they've grown a lot, but they've stayed focused on service to photographers. On site, you can also take photography lessons with the excellent Jeff Mullins.
→ See all my articles on the wreck of Liberty

To find all the articles about this trip, click on the link below :

  Indonesia: Lombok + Bali + Bangka - July 2015

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  1. Ah! The Liberty! I spent my AOWD there and did my first night dive where the giant groupers took advantage of the bundles of our torches to hunt by gushing behind the hatches ...
    Thank you for these great memories revived by your photos, beautiful as always ...

  2. What memories, with the Liberty! Like you, dive regularly (2008, 2012 and 2014), and am ready to go back tomorrow at dawn! or this evening ! (The night dives on the Liberty with a good guide, magical! The last time, fell on the whole group of humpback parrots sleeping in a hold!). Or in the morning at dawn the same group of parrots posted as an army in front of the bow, to welcome us. Exceptional!
    Thank you for all your beautiful articles, discoveries or activators of memories from past trips. 😉
    Mark

    1. @Marc Thiercelin: having a good guide with you is really the key to enjoy it at best ... Like you, I'm always ready to go back anytime! I realize that I had been a little "feignante" in 2011, I had not posted my photos on the blog. The dives were epic, it was a little rainy season, with big waves and conditions not always easy. So, we were quiet on the wreck, there were very few divers and all its wonders just for me and my guide ...

    2. I love your pictures and articles on Bali. Island that I love or I have already made 2 dives. What about the dives, my most beautiful I believe between the Liberty, the pyramids of Amed, my meeting with the mantas and a whale shark at Mantas Point, diving under a huge pontoon, a bit of funk at Crystal Bay after the briefing. And what about temples, village, beautiful landscapes! And the Balinese super nice and beautiful. I was based in Sanur and I dive with Atlantis all over the island, a Francophone club (given my level of English it helped me for the briefing) and especially an organization of thunder (one of the best I have seen). A big club but an individual service.

  3. It's almost an archaeologist's job! Moving and beautiful photos from the bottom of the water! Congratulations to the photographer 😉

  4. Justice and Liberty!
    Can you tell me again what is the other wreck in Amed, reachable from the beach and not very deep? I had snorkeled there.
    Did you go back to Amed on earth? Are there still the dredgers on the beaches? 😡 And the fishermen who leave at night and come back in the morning.

    1. @Marie: the wreck of which you speak is the "Japanese Wreck", a small Japanese wreck in fact, very nice for snorkeling and macro photography.
      I went back to Amed, on earth, yes. Always a pleasure to rent a scooter and go along the coast, nose to the wind, cove in cove. The draggers of the beaches did not bother me, I was less impressed by them than by the concentration of French tourists per square meter ... So, I fled to the terrace of Wawa Wewe II near Lipah, to admire the sea while drinking in Bintang Pratard (I was not there soon enough to see the fishermen return), without hearing French all around me ... 8)

    2. I had been there in September and there were very few tourists. As a result, the dredgers and snorkeling equipment lenders didn't have much to get their teeth into. Otherwise, I have a wonderful memory of an evening in a rather chic restaurant, on a terrace high up in front of the creeks, where a young Australian girl I had done a favour for invited me. The heat cooled by the wind, the moon, the sea, the alcohol... 😉

  5. Beautiful pictures !!! Last May, we saw only a small part of the wreck in snorkeling, which we have already had a lot of eyes, but here I can not wait to return to diving (and maybe take my 7D there in a few years)!

  6. Congratulations Bravo I did a dozen dives also there and I hope to return, in fact it's magical .... Small morning departure parrots, hunting moray eels and groupers at night ... in my top 5. Kisses 8)

  7. Thank you for this article, which made me want to dive on the Liberty! We returned from Bali, it was our 2nd stay and we still love as much Amed as you describe: scooter hair in the wind along the coast! Thank you for these beautiful underwater photos! I write an article on the subject with the video of my dive and I put a link to your article! have a good day !

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