An Oldie, But a Goodie

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Engine Forward
Monitor’s main steam engine is perched on its treatment rig within the 35,000-gallon treatment tank. The valve chests are visible on the lower left and lower right, reversing gear eccentrics are positioned dead center and top, and the engine’s cast iron support bed spans the entire top portion of this picture.

This week we’ve been very fortunate to spend some quality time with one of our oldest and dearest friends: USS Monitor‘s vibrating side lever steam engine. Much like our favorite ironclad, this salty lady is over 150 years old but keeps looking better every year.

We took the following pictures on Monday. Please remember that the engine currently sits upside down in the treatment tank.   Read more

Powerful New Evidence Against Anthracite Coal

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Coal 1

USS Monitor‘s engines were powered by steam generated by boiling water. Water was boiled by burning massive quantities of anthracite coal. Tons and tons of anthracite coal. Even when Monitor was under tow by the Rhode Island during her last hours afloat, coal was the driving force behind the movement of both vessels. Here is a picture of a small piece of anthracite coal excavated from the interior of Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002.

Original letters penned by crew members of Monitor and modern-day books describe loads of coal as fuel. Archaeologists confirmed this information with their discoveries of coal at the wreck site within the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But have archivists, historians, and archaeologists led us astray?   Read more

Help Identify a Mystery Artifact

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Over the past 13 years, NOAA archaeologists and Mariners’ Museum conservators have discovered hundreds of amazing artifacts within USS Monitor‘s revolving gun turret. Some artifacts, like the Dahlgren guns, gun carriages, and gun tools, are undergoing conservation as I type this blog entry. Others have already been fully conserved and are now on display within the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum or have been loaned to other institutions around the country to help share Monitor‘s fascinating stories.

However, there are handful of artifacts that continue to mystify us in the lab, particularly those that have been fully conserved but not properly identified. It may sound strange or surprising that in the last 13 years we have not successfully identified every single artifact from the turret. But this is often the case when many materials are excavated from an archaeological setting.   Read more