The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary protects the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 9, 1862.
On January 31, 1975, the resting place of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor was designated this nation's first marine sanctuary. The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, and all areas subsequently designated marine sanctuaries, are part of the National Marine Sanctuary Program administered by the Sanctuaries and Reserves Division (SRD) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary is located approximately 16 miles south-southeast of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. The Sanctuary is an area one mile in diameter that reaches from the surface of the ocean to the sea bed. Water depth is 230 feet. Bottom conditions, including visibility, current, and temperature, are variable.
The Monitor was the first of a class of low-freeboard, turreted war ships developed during the Civil War by Swedish-American engineer and inventor John Ericsson. The Monitor was launched at Greenpoint, Long Island, on January 30, 1862. The ship was approximately 172 feet long with a beam of approximately 42 feet and was constructed almost entirely of iron. When fully loaded, it drew 9 feet of water. The Monitor was the first ship to have the engines and living spaces below the water line. The revolving turret housed two XI-inch Dahlgren guns. In early March, the ship was sent to Hampton Roads, Virginia, to face the Confederate ironclad Virginia , (ex-USS Merrimack). On the morning of March 9, the Monitor and Virginia fought the first battle between ironclad warships. Despite the Virginia's much larger size and firepower, the Monitor clearly demonstrated the advantages of the revolving turret over traditional broadside guns. The battle marked the beginning of the end for traditional wooden ships of war and forever changed the way naval warfare was waged. The Monitor was lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras on December 31, 1862. Sixteen of her officers and crew were also lost.
The wreck of the USS Monitor has been studied by archaeologists, conservators, structural engineers, and corrosion experts. Most agree that the wreck cannot be recovered intact. Therefore, NOAA has ruled out complete recovery. However, experts also agree that recovery of major components, including the propeller, engine and associated material, and possibly the turret, is possible. Plans for recovery of major components from the wreck must also include plans for conservation, curation, and display.
Extensive research by NOAA and private groups has been conducted at the Sanctuary, and a wide variety of artifacts have been recovered, conserved, and made available for interpretation and display. These include a brass navigation lantern, small condiment and medicine bottles, pieces of cabinetry, part of a leather book binding, and ironstone dinnerware. The Monitor's unique four-fluked anchor was recovered in 1983 and is on display at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia. Brass oarlocks, probably for one of the ship's boats, have also been recovered.
Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the National Marine Sanctuary. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the National Marine Sanctuary should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.