Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Civil War Ship Being Recovered Divers Working to Stabilize Parts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Civil War Ship Being Recovered Divers Working to Stabilize Parts

Article excerpt

OFF CAPE HATTERAS -- Navy Cmdr. Barbara Scholley stands in the engine room of the USS Monitor, hands poised at the warship's wheel.

But she has no course to steer, and the Monitor isn't going anywhere. It lies upside down in 240 feet of water in the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," and the scene is carried to the surface from a video camera attached to Scholley's diving helmet.

She motions as if turning the Civil War ship's wheel, encrusted with orange, white and gray barnacles.

"She's getting her oohs and ahs out," said Monitor National Marine Sanctuary historian Jeff Johnston, watching Scholley's actions on a video screen aboard a 292-foot-long barge 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras.

Scholley has only about 30 minutes to survey the Monitor's steam engine, which officials hope to lift from the wreckage next year.

There are no plans to recover the entire ship because it is too fragile after 138 years of rusting on the ocean bottom. However, the anchor was removed in 1983 and its propeller was taken ashore in 1998.

In all, the recovery of relics and stabilization of the wreckage is expected to cost about $20 million over several years.

"There are always going to be pieces of the Monitor left," Johnston said of what he calls "the great-great-grandmother of every warship worldwide."

The Monitor was sunk off Cape Hatteras in a New Year's Eve storm in 1862, carrying four officers and 12 crewmen to the bottom.

Duke University researchers located the ship in 1973. The sanctuary was established two years later. Salvaged artifacts are displayed at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Va.

Each summer since 1995, the Navy and other agencies have sent divers to the sanctuary, marked by four orange buoys, to help salvage parts and survey the remains.

This summer, a crane on the barge has been used to lower a 70-ton, 36-foot-high steel bridge-like structure and place it over the Monitor's engine. …

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