At the Battle of Hampton Roads Virginia attacked the Union blockading squadron in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 8, 1862, destroying three ships before withdrawing. That night, Monitor, arrived under tow from Brooklyn. When Virginia returned the next day, March 9, to finish off the rest of the blockaders, Monitor sortied to stop her. The ironclads fought for about four hours, neither one sinking or seriously damaging the other. Tactically, the battle between these two ships was a draw—neither ironclad did significant damage to the other. However, it was a strategic victory for Monitor: Virginia's mission was to break the Union blockade; that mission failed. This happened during a time when Abraham Lincoln was president and the country was in the midst of turmoil.
On June 26, 2002 the first set of Navy Divers left surface to recover Monitors turret. Recovering a turret of this size at 240 feet is challenge enough. That it was buried beneath 100-plus tons of wreckage in an area known for severe weather made this a monumental undertaking. In order to do this, a 300’x90’ barge was outfitted with one (of the Navy’s remaining three) conventional mixed gas surface supplied systems as well as a saturation diving platform. The sheer depth and bottom time that would be required made the saturation system an absolute necessity. A huge crane with a 500-ton capacity was placed on the barge to lift the turret. To put 500 tons in perspective, it is equal to -- 3 ½ Statues of Liberty, or -- 311 2009 Chevrolet Corvettes, or -- 45,500 cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon. This mission would take 45 days of round the clock diving and would involve 162 Navy Divers from around the fleet that completed all in all almost 300 hours of bottom time and over 200 man days in saturation. In the process divers also recovered the remains of two sailors who went down with the ship.
"We manned the rails as we moved up the Chesapeake and as we approached Ft Monroe you could see the banks lined with people cheering and waving flags which definitely pushed our chests out a little further. As we passed Ft Monroe, they fired a 21 gun salute and as we felt the concussion from the first volley, you could see everyone's eyes start to fill up. When we made it pierside there was a band playing and a mob of cheering spectators. Several people gave speeches but I don't think any of us heard them. I think that it finally hit everyone that we had really done it! We were all lucky enough to have been at the right place at the right time...with the right mix of talent! It's the only way it could've happened. As far as the honors, there were several other events that took place that weekend in Aug and numerous articles in newspapers praising Navy Divers. The dedication of the Monitor center several years later was also awesome, but the real honor was knowing that as a Navy Diver, you made history! You were now firmly engraved in the history of our navy, and our country! Who could ask for more?......We literally dove into history!"
Note: To read more about the Monitor recovery; check out "Ironclad: The Epic Battle, Calamitous Loss, and Historic Recovery of the USS Monitor" by Paul Clancy. On a personal note; having read many diving history books, this is one of the best….I would call it required reading for Navy Divers.
Websites: Check out http://www.monitorcenter.org/ and http://monitor.noaa.gov/ for even more info.