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World’s Most Famous Artifact from Civil War Ironclad Reaches U.S. Shores

For the first time in 140 years, the long submerged revolving gun turret, the most recognizable aspect of the USS Monitor, returned to U.S. soil and will arrive at its final resting place at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va., tomorrow. Officials from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy and The Mariners’ Museum welcomed home this important piece of American history during a ceremony today at the Herbert Bateman Carrier Integration Center in Newport News, Va.

“The Monitor’s famous gun turret arrives at its final resting place in Newport News, Va., and in the hearts of all Americans,” said NOAA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Timothy R.E. Keeney, who spoke at the ceremony. “NOAA is proud to have been a lead partner in this historic event. The turret will remind present and future generations of the importance of the Monitor in revolutionizing naval warfare and architecture. My deepest appreciation goes to the men and women from NOAA and the Navy who rescued the Monitor after 140 years.”

Monday marked the end of a multi-year effort to retrieve key components of the historic ship before seawater corroded the vessel beyond recognition. The turret, with the cannons inside, was hoisted from the sea floor by a 500-ton crane aboard the Derrick Barge Wotan, owned and operated by Manson/Gulf Industries. The turret was then secured on the barge’s deck and transported to Newport News, Va.

“This fantastic effort by the Navy, the DoD Legacy Resource Management Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Mariners’ Museum to preserve the Monitor to tell its story to future generations reflects our Nation's appreciation of the military's role in defending our shores, past and present,” said John Paul Woodley, Jr., assistant deputy under secretary of defense for environment.

The massive gun turret of the Monitor was the warship's most prominent feature and a landmark in naval engineering. The first revolving gun turret in the world, it allowed two 11-inch Dahlgren cannons to be aimed independently from the ship's heading, a substantial war fighting advantage. To protect against incoming shots, its walls were constructed of eight layers of one-inch plate, bolted together with joints overlapping for additional strength. Even without the guns, the nine-foot-tall, twenty-foot-diameter turret weighed 120 tons. This design proved to be very successful, for the turret sustained dents but no significant damage during its famous battle with the Confederate ship CSS Virginia on March 9, 1862.

The multi-disciplinary effort was a coordinated project by NOAA, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU TWO) and The Mariners’ Museum. Prior to the lift, NOAA and Navy teams worked for almost two weeks to remove a 30-ton section of the Monitor’s hull plating and armor belt to uncover the turret and its contents, including the ship’s two 11-inch smoothbore Dahlgren cannons. Over the course of this five-year recovery project, Navy divers participated in excess of 750 dives to the wreck site.

“The arrival of the USS Monitor’s turret here today is a marvelous testament to cooperation, hard work, and the courage of the American Sailor,” said Vice Admiral Al Konetzni, deputy commander in chief U.S. Atlantic Fleet. “Dented from combat and rusted from 14 decades on the ocean floor, this turret is woven into the fabric of the American heritage and has profound significance to the Navy, science, and the nation. Its recovery is a testament to the true mettle of today’s American sailor. I’ve never been prouder of these young men and women who serve us so well and guard the walls at night against people who would do our nation harm.”

Located in a historically rich area of the United States, the world-famous Mariners’ Museum was designated as the custodian of the artifacts and archives of the USS Monitor by NOAA in 1987. As custodian, The Mariners’ Museum is charged with housing artifacts and providing conservation, interpretation and education about the historic ironclad.

More than 600 artifacts have been recovered from the Monitor, including its steam engine, condenser, propeller, a glass button, hydrometers, working thermometers, several intact lantern chimneys and two stanchions. All have been conveyed to The Mariners’ Museum for conservation and exhibit. The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA plan to open a $30 million, 65,000-square-foot USS Monitor Center in 2007, which will serve as the home for artifacts, archives, and stories of the men who served aboard this historic ironclad.

“This overwhelming event today is a triumphant and powerful moment in American history,” said John Hightower, president and CEO of The Mariners' Museum. “After being successfully resurrected from the ocean floor just four days ago, this naval icon will now be delivered to The Mariners' Museum where it will join countless other artifacts from the Monitor undergoing conservation or on exhibition.”

The artifact will be delivered to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va. on Saturday, August 10. The public is encouraged to join the Museum, U.S. Navy, and NOAA beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Lion's Bridge on the Museum's property fronting the James River and enjoy re-enactors, activities for the family, and an up close personal look at the gun turret of the USS Monitor. The turret will be delivered to the Museum's Monitor Conservation Area where it will be treated for the next 12 to 15 years in full public display.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was designated as the first national marine sanctuary in 1975. For more information about the Monitor, visit:

NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOAA Ocean Service) manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. NOAA Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

To learn more about NOAA Ocean Service and the National Marine Sanctuary Program, please visit