NOAA 99-R405
Contact: Dina Hill


In an effort to begin stabilizing the deteriorating hull of the U.S.S. Monitor, the sunken Civil War ironclad ship off Cape Hatteras, N.C., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy will undertake a data-collection mission this month to assess what needs to be done, NOAA announced today.

This archaeological and engineering mission will take place at the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, which was established in 1975 to provide protection for the ship. The mission is sponsored by NOAA, the Navy, and The Mariners' Museum.

"Mission goals include surveying and assessing the Monitor's lower hull, assessing the feasibility and difficulty of removing the steam engine, and testing the feasibility of using divers to install cement bags for hull shoring and stabilization," said John Broadwater, manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. "Navy divers will carry out the tasks, operating from the salvage ship U.S.S Grasp."

Recent evidence has alerted NOAA that the collapse of the Monitor's hull is imminent, a result of both natural and human causes. In response to this critical situation, NOAA developed a long-range planning document, Charting a New Course for the Monitor. Submitted to Congress in April 1998, the plan specifies a combination of stabilizing the Monitor's hull and recovery of selected components of the ship, including the propeller, engine, guns and turret. The first phase of the recommended option was completed during the 1998 Monitor expedition.

The U.S.S Monitor, one of the most significant ships in U.S. history, has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a National Marine Sanctuary. Artifacts recovered from the Monitor during past expeditions are displayed at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va.

The Monitor sanctuary is administered by NOAA's Marine Sanctuaries Division, which now serves as steward for 12 special and diverse national marine sanctuaries.