FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Balian
|NOAA News Releases 2002
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Wreckage was completely cleared today from the USS Monitor's famous and historic gun turret for the first time in 140 years. A team of U.S. Navy divers and scientists from the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration succeeded in removing a section of hull and armor belt that has covered the turret since the warship sank on New Year's Eve 1862 off Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Removal of the hull section was the first phase of Monitor Expedition 2002, with the primary goal of recovering the world's first armored, revolving gun turret, an innovation that can still be seen on today's warships. Even after the turret is recovered, the area will remain an important archaeological site as remaining artifacts are found.
The Monitor's famous turret, with its two large Dahlgren cannons inside, is estimated to weigh nearly 150 tons. To gain access to the turret for excavation and recovery, a large portion of the ship's aft hull-structure was removed. Before the lift could be made, Navy divers had to remove tons of debris and coal, then cut through thick layers of iron and wood hull-structure.
"It is very gratifying for me to see the Navy's planning and training being rewarded with this success," said Navy Capt. Chris Murray, Naval Sea Systems Command representative for the expedition. "I am confident that we will return from the expedition with the turret."
With the turret exposed, divers can install the 57,000-pound lifting frame, or "claw," and begin excavating the interior of the turret, which is completely filled with silt. Following excavation, the turret will be raised, placed on the support barge, and transported to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., for conservation and exhibition.
"With the hull removed, we can now turn our attention to our primary reason for being here, the recovery of the turret," said Navy Cmdr. Bobbie Scholley, commanding officer, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two and officer in tactical command of Monitor Expedition 2002. "There is still a lot of work to do before we raise the turret, so we'll celebrate the completion of this milestone and then begin the excavation of the turret's interior."
"As the hull section lifted away from the turret, I felt that I was watching the opening of a sea chest filled with someone's keepsakes from the Monitor," said John Broadwater, manager of NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA's expedition chief scientist. "As I viewed the lift on video with Navy personnel in the dive control van, the excitement was palpable."
The U.S. Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two are providing the personnel and equipment for the expedition, assisted by a $6.5 million grant from the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program and $600,000 from NOAA.
The Monitor was designated as the first national marine sanctuary in 1975. 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. In addition, the NOAA Sanctuaries is currently considering the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve for sanctuary designation.
For more information on the Monitor expedition, please visit the following Web sites: NOAA's Monitor Expedition 2002 Web site at http://monitor.noaa.gov, the NAVSEA website at http://www.navsea.navy.mil, the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two at http://www.cnsl.spear.navy.mil/mdsu2 or The Mariners' Museum website at http://www.mariner.org.
NOAA's National Ocean Service manages the NOAA's Marine Sanctuaries, 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 NOAA Sanctuaries, please visit http://www.nos.noaa.gov.