USS Monitor

USS Monitor Wreck Survey

USS Monitor was the first steam powered ironclad warship ever built by the US Navy. The ship was built by Continental Iron Works in Brooklyn, New York and launched in January of 1862. The Monitor's service career was short, but the action it saw was incredibly significant to naval history.

On March 9th, 1862, USS Monitor engaged the confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads. This was the first time in history that two steam powered ironclads came into direct conflict. CSS Virginia had spent the previous day laying waste to a large number of wooden hulled Union warships as Monitor sailed to respond to her attack. During the engagement, neither the Monitor or the Virginia were able to cause any significant damage to each other. On board USS Monitor, the worst of the injuries were a man knocked unconscious by a shell that impacted the armor plate he was leaning against, though he regained consciousness within an hour, and the temporary blinding of Officer John Worden, who was looking through a viewing slit when it took a direct hit, sending splinters of paint and iron into his eyes. Beyond these two, injuries were limited to hearing loss from the impact of heavy naval artillery shells slamming into the sides of the ships.

USS Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in December of 1862 with the loss of 16 crew members. At the time of her loss, the ship was being towed to join a blockading force off Wilmington, North Carolina.

The ship was discovered on August 27th, 1973 in approximately 220 feet of water. The wreck was far enough offshore that it was not inherently protected from salvage by looters under North Carolina law, and action was needed to ensure its preservation. In January of 1975, the wreck site of the USS Monitor was officially designated as the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. It was the first Marine Sanctuary ever created under US law.

Since her discovery, several major components of the Monitor have been raised and are under conservation in Newport News, Virginia, only a few miles from the site of the Battle of Hampton Roads. These include her propeller, her engine, and her revolving gun turret, the first of its kind.

The footage you see here was recorded during a 2001 expedition to the wreck site of the USS Monitor and is provided courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration