USS Monitor, 1997

On December 31, 1862, the USS Monitor foundered in a gale while she was being towed off Cape Hatteras, N.C. Immediate rescue was impossible because of the heavy seas. Four officers and twelve men were lost. 

For many years, searchers sought the Monitor's grave in vain. Finally, in 1973, she was found. In 1975, the site was dedicated as a National Marine Sanctuary. Over the last 25 years, researchers have studied her. Artifacts will be preserved at the Mariners' Museum in Norfolk. Recently the option of raising the Monitor has received much notice. Articles have appeared in Civil War Times and Newsweek, amongst others.

Below is a diagram of the upside-down Monitor from a NOAA report. This will help orient the following pictures. Remember that the Monitor is upside down so the hull is visible from above. The turret is below the ship and was separated from its original midships position. In this diagram, the bow of the ship is to the right and the stern is to the left. 

Diagram of wreck

The following pictures were generously provided by John Chluski from video of his team's diving expeditions down to the USS Monitor in 1997. The clarity and ambient light in the pictures is astonishing. His team was extremely fortunate to be diving when the visibility was so great. The Monitor is in 230 feet of water. Only blue light filters down to that depth, leaving a world of no contrast without artificial light. Any cloudiness of the water would block the remaining blue light and leave only darkness.

For more information on their dives, please see the Cambrian Foundation's Monitor Project final report page.

Note that all the following pictures are copyrighted by Swift Current Productions and the Cambrian Foundation. Click on any picture for a larger image.

View of anchor well We start our tour as the divers survey the anchor well near the bow of the ship.

Midships viewNext is a shot taken just forward of the engineering spaces, looking aft. Below the camera is the collapsed crew and officers' quarters. In the diagram, this is near the label "midships bulkhead."

Overhead view of midships The remainder of the pictures are towards the aft. In this picture you can see the turret dislodged under the ship. The divers are surveying the wreck, measuring a span of hull.

View of the turretThis trio of divers descends to take a closer look at the turret.

Close up of turret This marine growth on the side of the turret is damaging but is not the primary cause of deterioration of the Monitor.

View of the propellerUnretouched view of propeller This picture of the propeller looks deceivingly normal. In fact the propeller has fallen through the ship and is now on the wrong side.

The above pictures were all taken with ambient light. The images were manipulated to bring out color and contrast. On the right is an unretouched picture.

View of unknown object Finally, it is unknown exactly what this object is. Perhaps it is part of the throttle, perhaps it is a gauge. If you look closely enough in a magnified image, you can see some large lettering in the center and  what appears to be gear teeth on the right.  The "teeth" are actually just a by-product of the image processing and really aren't there.


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Copyright 1998 by Mabry Tyson