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

Ask a conservator

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Looking from forward to aft on the USS <em>Monitor</em>. It will be interesting to see how different the site looks this summer.
Looking from forward to aft on the USS Monitor. It will be interesting to see how different the site looks this summer.

Last week a group of 5th graders from a school in Chesapeake came to visit The Mariners’ Museum and took part in the Clash of Armor program. They wanted to know if we are going back to the wreck site of the USS Monitor. 

This is a great question, and as a matter of fact the underwater archaeologists from NOAA are going to be diving on the Monitor site this summer. They will be mapping the site. They are not planning to recover any more of the vessel. Thanks for the question. I hope you enjoyed your visit to the museum!   Read more

Bells Across the Land

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Engine Room Gong

This is a photo of USS Monitor‘s engine room gong after conservation at The Mariners’ Museum. We briefly rang this gong in 2012 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the sinking of USS Monitor and to remember the lives of her crew lost off Hatteras, NC in 1862.

On Thursday, April 9 at 3:00pm, staff and visitors at The Mariners’ will be joining the National Park Service’s Bells Across the Land initiative to commemorate 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, which represents the symbolic end of the Civil War. We will host a ceremony aboard the USS Monitor replica outside the USS Monitor Center, hear brief remarks from speakers, observe a moment of silence, and ring the replica’s bronze bell.   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

A Quest for Identity

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Facial reconstructions generated by LSU’s FACES Lab from the remains of two sailors recovered from USS Monitor’s gun turret.

The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA have a strong, ongoing desire to positively identify two sets of human remains recovered from Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002. Experts have documented and studied the remains, extracted viable DNA for comparison with modern samples, and attempted to verify the sailors’ identities. Unfortunately no matches have been found to date. With all information gathered and stored for future use, the remains were buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on March 8, 2013.

Lack of positive identification hasn’t stopped Mariners’ and NOAA staff and the general public from trying to learn more about Monitor‘s sailors. Prior to burial of the remains, experts at LSU’s FACES Lab reconstructed both sailors’ faces using scientific and artistic methods. LSU staff believe their reconstructions have a strong resemblance to the original sailors, and they have had an over 90% success rate in identifying modern remains based upon their facial reconstructions. So we can state with some confidence that LSU’s facial reconstructions of USS Monitor sailors have a likeness to the original men who gave their lives on December 31, 1862.   Read more