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Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

Designated as the first National Marine Sanctuary site in January 1975, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary encompasses the site of the USS Monitor shipwreck. The sanctuary, located 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina is one nautical mile in diameter.

USS Monitor heralded a new era in warship design by marking the end of the traditional wooden warship. Swedish engineer, John Ericsson constructed the USS Monitor in only 110 days. The technology on the boat, advanced for its time, included a steam-powered screw propeller and turreted gun mounts which allowed the ship to fire at the enemy by revolving the turret, eliminating the necessity of movement by the entire vessel.

On December 31, 1862, the Monitor sank during a storm as it was heading south to Beaufort, NC. A Duke University research vessel discovered the wreck in 1973. Today, the sunken ship provides both scientific and cultural information. The USS Monitorís remains serve as a productive artificial reef where many different species such as dolphin, sand tiger sharks, sea urchins, amberjack, and sea anemones can be found.

Archeological and scientific research expeditions are conducted at the site. researchers continue to assess the shipwreck and the habitat that surrounds it. Artifacts that have been retrieved from the Monitor include a four-fluked anchor, medicine bottles, a brass navigation lantern, ironstone dinner ware, part of a leather book binding and a jar of pickle relish. Divers cannot see the wreck but, you can visit the Marinerís Museum located in Newport News, Virginia and see the collection of artifacts found at the Monitor site.

Trivia: The USS Monitor was the prototype for a class of warships known as "Monitors." By the end of the American Civil War, there were 60 Monitors in the water or under construction. Styles and designs varied, but all incorporated the original Monitor's most notable feature, the revolving turret. The United States Navy continued to build Monitor-style vessels until 1903 and they remained in service as late as 1913.

Did you know that the first below-waterline flushing toilets were aboard the USS Monitor? The Monitor was credited by one of her engineers as containing, "...at least forty patent-able contrivances."

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Artists rendering of the battle between the CSS Virgina and the USS Monitor Artists rendering of the battle between the CSS Virgina and the USS Monitor
Monitor Collection, NOAA


The Monitor's Anchor recovered in 1983 The Monitor's Anchor recovered in 1983
Monitor Collection, NOAA


Launch of the USS Monitor, January 30, 1862 Launch of the USS Monitor, January 30, 1862
Harpers Weekly Magazine




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