Diving Indo Blog USAT Liberty Shipwreck

History of the Liberty Shipwreck, a Popular Dive Site in Bali

  |   Bali Diving, Diving In Bali

One of the most famous shipwrecks in the world rests just offshore of Bali’s Tulamben. The Liberty’s role in World War 2 and the diversity of its life underwater draws dozens of scuba divers and snorkelers every day.


Liberty’s role in World War 1 and 2


Built in 1918 in New Jersey, the Liberty is 120m long, 17m in beam and weighed 6,211 tons.


During World War 1, the Liberty made several trips from New York to France, carrying horses and general cargo.


By the time the United States entered World War 2 in December of 1941, the Liberty was in the Pacific, continuing its function as a cargo ship.


On January 11th, 1942, the conscripted US cargo ship was carrying rubber and railroad parts from Australia to American bases in the Philippines. During its journey, the Liberty was torpedoed by Japanese submarine in the Lombok Strait.



She sat breached in Bali for 20 years


Wounded but not sunk, she was towed by the accompanying destroyers in the fleet towards Singaraja in North Bali.  It was hoped that she could be repaired there, but she started to take on too much water. Instead, she beached at Tulamben on the North East coast of Bali so that her cargo and fittings could be salvaged.


And there she sat for over 20 years!



It took a volcano to finally sink her


In February 1963, the Liberty met her final resting place.  The volcano Mount Agung, which is the backdrop to Tulamben, became active for the first time in 120 years and caused a series of earthquakes.   This land movement caused the ship to slip off the beach and into deeper water, breaking her at the bow and stern.


Read more about the still-active volcano Mount Agung here.



Liberty makes for an easy dive site


Luckily for all levels of divers, the shipwreck rests parallel to the shore. Her highest point rest just 3m down and her lowest at 29m so the whole length of the ship can be enjoyed!


The Liberty wreck is also an easy snorkeling site because it lies just 10 meters from the beach.


In the 50 years since it finally sank, the Liberty has been growing an amazing artificial reef. It is covered in coral and is now home to over 400 species of fish, including being the nightly home to bumphead parrotfish.


Read more about the bumphead parrotfish at Tulamben here.


 Bumphead parrotfish make the Liberty wreck at Tulamben their home. Bumphead parrotfish make the Liberty wreck at Tulamben their home.


How to see the Liberty wreck yourself


The Liberty wreck is a must see during ever visit to Bali. Diving Indo hosts regular excursions to the Liberty wreck at Tulamben for divers and snorkelers. Excursions include knowledgeable guides, lunch and all the equipment you need.


(And when you go, pay attention to local balancing air tanks on their heads! They are part of the Diving Helpers Club. Read more about them here.)


Tulamben is also a great place to get your advanced open water certification. The course include wreck diving, and what better wreck to dive than the Liberty! Here is a diver’s experience, getting their AOW at Tulamben!