240 feet below the swells of the Atlantic Ocean, 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras in an area known as the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic,’ the wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor waited. Buffeted by the clashing of the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current, she who had fought an epic battle above the water, had now become vulnerable to the forces of nature below the water.
In the summer of 2002 teams from NOAA, the US Navy, CILHI, and The Mariners’ Museum fought to retrieve the ironclad’s iconic rotating gun turret against incredible odds. Wind, water, and currents made the job tricky. A tight schedule and dwindling funds added to the tension. An unusually active tropical season made it seem downright impossible.
And yet, on August 5, 2002 at 5:47 p.m., exactly 10 years ago today, the turret was out of the water and sitting on the deck of the Derrick Barge Wotan, accompanied by resounding cries of “HOOYAH!”
So today, we salute all of the men and women who worked to make that recovery possible – there are more names than we can possibly list here. From the engineers at the Newport News Shipyard and Phoenix International who designed and fabricated the lifting rig to the crew and crane operators of the D/B Wotan and to the private dive clubs and everyone in-between – we salute you!
A salute and a HOO YAH DEEP SEA! to the Navy Divers – who, in the course of the recovery in 2002 logged 507 surface-supplied HE-O2 dives for a total of 286 hours of bottom time and a staggering 213 man-days in saturation! To all of the men and women of the Navy – and especially our friends at Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek – we are forever in awe of you.
We thank our friends and colleagues at NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary who made a dream become a reality. The vision and determination of Dr. John Broadwater and Jeff Johnston – and those who came before them – to rescue the iconic pieces of “Our Little Monitor” helped bring the strange little Civil War ship’s story – and that of her opponent the CSS Virginia – to people the world over. Thank you, thank you and yet again thank you.
10 years on – I think John Ericsson and all of the Monitor Boys would be proud.