Pieces of History

Raised from the deep, the Monitor's turret reveals a bounty of new details about the ship's violent end

After 41 days of grueling, round-the-clock diving, Cmdr. Bobbie Scholley and her dive team celebrated the turret's recovery. (Lynda Richardson)
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The turret arrived August 10 at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, where all of the artifacts recovered from the Monitor are undergoing conservation, and was immediately immersed in an 86,000-gallon conservation tank. Thermometers, bottles and lantern chimneys; gimballed lantern holders graced with ornate Victorian filigree; bilge pump parts and ladders; the 36-ton engine encrusted with marine life—all bathe in a variety of containers, from small tubs to construction-size Dumpsters, where a cocktail of chemicals slowly removes the corrosive salts that have permeated the metal parts.

It will take months for archaeologists to finish the excavation of the turret and discern its secrets. And it will be years—an estimated 12 to 15—before the metal of the turret will be stable enough to be removed from the conservation tank so it can be displayed for public viewing at the soon-to-be-built USS Monitor Center at the museum.

Meantime, Broadwater and his team will try to find a way to return to the ship. They want to stabilize what remains of the hull and perhaps explore some of its forward sections, where William Keeler wrote his long letters and the officers of the Monitor raised toasts to their doughty little ship. Now on the ocean floor, what’s left of the Monitor rests quietly, perhaps with more stories yet to tell.

Wendy Mitman Clarke’s book, Window on the Chesapeake, is due out in 2003. Lynda Richardson photographed desert biologist Pinau Merlin in December 2001.


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