Gun Turret from USS Monitor Sees the Light of Day After 140 Years

Back in March of 1862, USS Monitor and the Confederate CSS Virginia fought out the first duel between ironclads in Naval history.

It ended in a draw, with neither ship suffering any significent damage.

The Monitor, as the result of a storm sank on New Year’s eve in 1862.

This wreck was found in 1973, but has only yielded up its gun turret in August 2002.

[Image]Rotating gun turret of USS Monitor.
Having sunk in 1862 off the coast of North Carolina, this unique 160 tonne turret was the first to rotate, allowing its two huge 11 inch Dahlgren cannon to be trained on an enemy ship whilst Monitor could steam in any direction, an enormous tactical advantage.

Other ships needed to be be manoeuvered in order to bring their armament to bear on the opposition vessel.

Finding the Monitor.
It was in 1973 that the wreck of this historic ship was found 25 kilometres off Hatteras on the North Carolina coast, and the site was named as a marine sanctuary.

When the vessel had sunk it had rolled over, and the immense gun turret weighing in at 160 tonnes had broken loose, falling to the sea bed, with the ship ending up on top of the turret.

Recovering the engine and propellor.
A salvage team sponsored by the US Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recovered the 36 tonne steam engine and the 2.5 metre propellor from Monitor in 2001.

Collecting the turret.
Because the Monitor was quite deep in about 70 metres of water, it was then necessary for the diving team to use saturation diving, ie the divers lived in a pressurised chamber for up to two weeks at a time on the Wotan, a salvage barge.

On the evening of the 5th. of August 2002, US Navy divers hooked large steel cables onto the turret which was then slowly winched to the surface.

The Monitor's turret at the surface once again.
Monitor Turret at the surface again

At last, it broke the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, to see daylight for the first time in 140 years.

This Naval engineering masterpiece of its day was then lowered to a barge to be transported to Newport News Virginia.

In due time, and it may take years to remove the salt build up from its years of submersion, this turret will be on display at a new $30Million museum at Newport News.

Within the turret was found a near intact skeleton, which will receive full military honours when buried.

The ocean depths have once more been forced to part with yet another Naval artefact, this time an historic rotating gun turret that made Naval history in its fight with CSS Virginia on the 9th. of March 1862.


Picture of Lantern found within the Monitor's turret in 1979, the glass is intact but cracked.
Monitor's Lantern found within the turret in 1979


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