The USS Monitor Turret Returns to Newport News

The USS Monitor sunk on December 31, 1862. After nearly 140 years, the part of the ship lying on the turret was cut back and the turret was raised in a special "spider" support structure. The turret is upside down, and at the time it was returned, contained two feet of silt and three (or more) sets of remains of crew. A year earlier, the engine and part of the propellor shaft were cut away and brought to Mariner's Museum.

This effort involved a number of groups. NOAA manages the Monitor Sanctuary under John Broadwater. The effort to cut away and raise the turret was used as a training exercise for the Navy divers. Mariner's Museum is doing the conservation and display of the turret.

On the following pages, click on the thumbnail images for larger images.

The return to Newport News August 9, 2002

The city, the museum, NOAA, and the Navy had a display tent with several displays including a model of the Monitor , a working model of the Virginia's engines, and a model of the two 11" Dahlgren cannons in the Monitor.

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Old and new diving suits. The divers worked at 240 feet below the surface. Some were saturation dives. If I recall correctly, there were more than 2000 hours of bottom time, spread over more than 200 divers.

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The Monitor's turret arrives at Newport News on an ocean-going vessel with the crane that lifted the 220-ton turret (that was the measured effort to raise the turret). The divers (in blue) manned the rail as the vessel came in. Note the 1862 34-star US flag.

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Naval Detachment for USS Monitor: (Left to right) Charles Foils, Judith Wilt, Gregg Vaughan, Keith Southall, Al Mitchell, Wayne Thompson. At the end of the ceremonies, they fired their 12-pounder as a salute. Ships Company CSS Virginia/USS Monitor

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A good crowd, mostly adults, came out on a Friday morning. Media and family of the divers got to go on board the vessel for a closer look. There was quite a contingent of media. Among those present was National Geographic which will be covering the events and the turret (with video).

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Passing of the flag from the Navy to NOAA (John Broadstreet) to Mariner's Museum (John Hightower) to a govt. official. Among the speakers were the local Representative and an emissary of a Virginia Senator, along with a number of US and Navy speakers.

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What we were there for: Most of these images are during and after the transfer from the ocean-going vessel that pulled it up (with the crane) to a flat barge to carry it up the James River to the Mariner's Museum. The areas that don't have marine growth on them were generally covered by silt on the bottom of the ocean. You can see a dent that is (by this view) above and to the left of the left gun port, on the other side of the support beam labelled 7. It is on the vertical border between the marine growth and metal. Later, after I checked the 1862 images, I realized there were two more dents that could be visible. These are to the right and above the right gun port. Those of us on land couldn't identify these dents from the land. A photographer on the barge could see them.

The pieces of wood in the gun ports are labelled "S" and "P" (presumably for starboard and port). I believe they were there to help support the shutters for the ports.

The pieces of metal that stick out under the turret are the supports for the canopy.

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