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The two historic 11-inch Dahlgren smooth-bore cannons from Civil War ironclad USS Monitor were carefully removed today from the vessel’s iconic gun turret where they had been shielded for more than 142 years. Conservators from The Mariners’ Museum, the NOAA’s principal museum for Monitor artifacts, teamed up with scientists from NOAA and riggers from Northrop Grumman Newport News to lift and move each cannon ,weighing 17,000 pounds, into individual tanks where they will spend the next five years undergoing conservation to remove corrosive salts from the iron. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.
“The Mariners’ Museum is not only revealing the power of these cannons, it is preserving a fascinating engineering advancement in one of the most famous historic naval battles in the world which occurred in Virginian waters. All historians, young and old, will be one step closer to appreciating the epic battle between two great ships, the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (Merrimack), that shaped naval warfare forever" said Virginia Sen. George Allen. "The people of the Commonwealth and all of America are grateful to The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA for meticulously preserving this important moment in our history. We look forward to the conserved artifacts being on display for all to enjoy.”
“Over the years, NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, with expert assistance from the U.S. Navy, has been successful in bringing the ironclad’s anchor, propeller, steam engine, turret and cannons to the Museum and to the public,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Removing these cannons from the turret is a milestone for both NOAA and The Mariners’ Museum in the effort to produce a world-class exhibit on the Monitor.”
“With the cannons removed from the turret, the public will now be able to see what, until now, only the researchers have seen up close,” said John Broadwater, manager for NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
The cannons are now in individual conservation tanks undergoing the electrolytic reduction conservation process to reduce their corrosion and remove chlorides from the iron. Conservators are expecting this process to slowly reveal the engravings “Worden” and “Ericsson” placed on each cannon during the Monitor’s time in the Washington Navy Yard after its epic battle with the CSS Virginia.
“This is a historic step in the overall conservation of USS Monitor artifacts at The Mariners’ Museum,” said Museum President and CEO, John Hightower. “It’s absolutely stunning to see those magnificent guns in full scale outside of the turret. We will now be that much closer to uncovering the historic engravings on each cannon that, according to history, read ‘Worden’ for the Captain John Worden, and ‘Ericsson’ for ship designer John Ericsson.”
In 1862, the Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor sank in turbulent waters off the coast of North Carolina. Almost 100 years later, scientists discovered the wreck, which became the nation’s first national marine sanctuary in 1975. In 1987, NOAA designated The Mariners’ Museum as the repository for all artifacts and archives from the USS Monitor. Since then, The Mariners’ Museum has received over 1,500 artifacts from the vessel, including the steam engine in 2001 and the revolving gun turret in 2002.
“The removal of these artifacts was particularly exacting due to the confined quarters inside the turret and the fragility of the cannon's surface which have engravings commemorating the Monitor's battle with the CSS Virginia,” said The Mariners' Museum's Lead Conservator Curtiss Peterson. “With the cannons removed, we can now turn our attention to the turret itself.”
The Civil War ironclad USS Monitor fought one of the most famous naval duels in U.S. history against the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., March 9, 1862. Their legendary battled ushered in the iron age of naval warfare. The Monitor’s unique feature was its revolving gun turret that rested amidships of the vessel. Two massive 11-inch Dahlgren smooth-bore cannons, capable of firing solid shot weighing 180 pounds, were installed inside the turret.
Though the Monitor would go into battle with only two cannons, the revolving turret allowed her to aim her guns more efficiently giving her a distinct advantage over an opponent with 10 cannons since ships of this time, which were forced to aim by moving the entire ship.
The Mariners’ Museum is conducting a $30 million capital campaign for the USS Monitor Center. The new center will be the definitive national authority and repository for the artifacts and all other materials, research and programming related to the history of the famous Civil War ironclad warship that revolutionized naval warfare. The center will also recount the story of the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia.
NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program has provided $9.5 million in federal funds contributing toward the $20 million that will be raised from public sources. The Mariners’ Museum is conducting a $10 million private sector campaign raising funds from corporations, foundations and individuals across the nation. The Monitor Center will open on March 9, 2007.
The Mariners’ Museum, an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Association of Museums, preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. To learn more about the Mariners’ Museum, please visit www.mariner.org.
The Mariners’ Museum and The South Street Seaport Museum of New York City are partners in America’s National Maritime Museum, an innovative alliance recognized by an act of Congress in June 1998 to share collections, exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and other endeavors.
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