NOAA 2000-412
Contact: Connie Barclay


If all goes well over the next four weeks, the wreck of the USS Monitor will have protection from a predicted catastrophic collapse. On June 15, NOAA's National Ocean Service and the U.S. Navy began a joint expedition to the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. One of its major objectives is to place grout bags beneath the hull of the deteriorating ironclad. While the bags will not prevent a major collapse, they will prevent sections of the ship from dropping several feet to the sea floor, which would damage or destroy much of the material still contained within the hull.

Beginning in the early 1990s, NOAA documented dramatic changes in the wreck of the famous Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, which lies 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras in 240 feet of water. In early 1998, NOAA finalized a long-range preservation plan for the Monitor that recommended placing grout bags under the hull and recovering major components of the wreck, including the propeller, engine and turret. The plan was completed in response to a mandate from Congress. The Monitor's propeller was recovered in 1998. The engine will be prepared for recovery during the June expedition, following placement of the grout bags. No specific date has been set for recovery of the turret.

Objectives for the June expedition will be carried out by Navy divers from Mobile and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU-2), stationed in Little Creek, Va. MDSU-2 has participated with NOS in several cooperative expeditions to the Monitor. The divers will be working from a barge that will be moored over the Monitor for the entire expedition, barring severe weather.

Artifacts located during the expedition will be mapped, recovered and transported to the Mariners Museum for Conservation, in Newport News, Va., a partner in the expeditions scheduled for this summer.

"If we get a little cooperation from the weather, we can accomplish two major steps in long-term preservation of the Monitor," said John Broadwater, manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Program received a major budget increase for fiscal year 2000, a portion of which has been committed to saving the Monitor.

In July and August, NOAA, the National Undersea Research Center/University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Cambrian Foundation, and The Mariners Museum will participate in a follow-up expedition to place anodes on parts of the wreck to slow the rate of deterioration, and carry out other tasks designed to recover data for the 2001 field season.