Skip to main content /US /US

Monitor turret raised from ocean

'World's first armored revolving gun turret'

The USS Monitor's gun turret rises from the Atlantic Monday.
The USS Monitor's gun turret rises from the Atlantic Monday.  

CAPE HATTERAS, North Carolina (CNN) -- Salvage workers Monday raised the world's first armored revolving gun turret from the sunken wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.

In March 1862, the Monitor, a Union vessel designed by 19th-century engineer John Ericcson, battled with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the Union ship USS Merrimack) in a four-hour duel off Hampton Roads, Virginia. The first battle of the ironclads ended in a draw.

The Monitor sank nine months later during a New Year's Eve storm off Cape Hatteras in an expanse of ocean called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" because of the many ships that have foundered there.

Now, 140 years later, workers using a 500-ton crane aboard the derrick barge Wotan lifted the turret through 240 feet of water 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras.

The crane is owned and operated by Manson Gulf Industries, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

The gun turret from USS Monitor was raised from the floor of the Atlantic in a salvage mission to recover the historic Civil War ship (August 5)

Play video
Gallery: Raising the Monitor 
USS Monitor: Reconstructing the gun turret 
USS Monitor expedition 

The turret, which holds two cannons, was secured on the barge's deck and will be taken to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, where a decade-long preservation process will begin.

The U.S. Navy refers to the Monitor as its first modern warship. "It was such an innovation," said John Broadwater, manager of NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and chief scientist of Monitor Expedition 2002.

"The Monitor's turret was the first of its kind," Broadwater told CNN. "Most ships of the day had guns that stuck straight out the side and could not be moved much. So you had to steer the whole ship to aim the gun. The Monitor's turret could aim the gun without moving the ship.

"The successful recovery of the Monitor's famous gun turret is the culmination of a NOAA long-range management plan submitted to Congress in 1998," Broadwater said.

"The turret will remind present and future generations of the Monitor's story and of the men and women from NOAA and the Navy who rescued the Monitor after 140 years."

Since the Monitor's watery grave was discovered in 1973, research expeditions have studied the wreck. Prior missions recovered other components of the vessel, including the vessel's propeller and 30-ton steam engine, which is being conserved by The Mariners' Museum.

The turret retrieval marks the end of an effort by NOAA, the Navy and The Mariners' Museum to preserve key components of the ship.

The turret spent 140 years at the bottom of the Atlantic, 240 feet below the surface.
The turret spent 140 years at the bottom of the Atlantic, 240 feet below the surface.  

"Future generations will not have to rely on paintings and faded photographs to remember the Monitor," said Broadwater. "Her story will now be told through the very icon that made her famous -- the world's first armored revolving gun turret."

NOAA and Navy teams had worked for six weeks to remove a 30-ton section of the Monitor's hull plating and armor belt to uncover the turret and its contents, including the ship's two 11-inch smoothbore cannons.

Strong currents foiled plans to raise the turret over the weekend, said NOAA spokesman David Hall.

A ceremony is planned to mark its arrival Friday in Norfolk. It is expected to be transferred Saturday to The Mariners' Museum for display in a tank, he said.

"I'm looking at it right now," Hall said. "It's amazing."

"This is truly a historic day," said Navy Cmdr. Bobbie Scholley, commanding officer of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two and officer in tactical command of Monitor Expedition 2002.

"The men and women that make up this wonderful Monitor team have displayed incredible hard work and dedication over the last six weeks to bring us to this point."

More than 200 artifacts have been recovered during the 41-day expedition, including a glass button, hydrometers, working thermometers, an intact lantern chimney and two stanchions. They have been taken to The Mariners' Museum for conservation and exhibit.

Possible human remains also were recovered Saturday from the turret and taken to the U.S. Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for analysis and identification.


Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top