Naval Sea Systems Command divers, along with National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration divers
lifted a piece of naval history out of 240 ft of water off the coast of Cape Hatteras
. One hundred forty years after it's sinking, the Union ironclad Monitor is still making headlines. The 30-ton steam engine is once again in the spotlight as a $4.9 million recovery project successfully surfaces with the engine intact. Good weather conditions supported the initial lift of the intact engine. A 90-ton recovery structure was built to bring the engine to the surface. Divers rigged hydraulic hoses to rams and tested their assemblies. Divers verified lift points around the engine and lifted it approximately 24 inches using hydraulic rams at 1930 ft. During the first throw of the hydraulic rams, the engine was lifted off the structure and condenser. After it was detached and stable, it was raised 4 ft off the deck. Divers then rigged another six straps under the engine. After that, divers rigged cargo nets under the engine in case loose parts fell off during the lift to the surface. They installed tag lines to the elf and Rig Bridge lifting slings in order to attach it to the14-ft suspended lifting frame. As divers secured the engine, the entire assembly was lifted to the surface and placed on a waiting barge. After the main engine was removed, divers explored methods of cutting the armor belt and excavating the pilot holes around the turret. This is done to verify whether the rifle shield is on top of the turret and to determine the condition of the turret.
The engine will rest in a 93,000-gallon conservation tank until the conservation process begins. The engine must remain in the water to prevent further deterioration until it is properly stabilized. It will eventually find its home at The Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia where it will undergo electrochemical conservation treatments. Divers worked around the clock for 28 days to free the ship's engine from the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." The successful $4.9 million retrieval of the engine is a result of a lengthy on-going project NAVSEA and NOAA have been working on since 1998. NAVSEA and NOAA divers will continue work on the Monitor as they prepare for a 2002 expedition.