Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
Location: 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Size: One mile in diameter
Habitat: Shipwreck, open oceanVisit Website
On January 30, 1975, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was designated as our nation’s first national marine sanctuary. Lying just off the North Carolina coast, the sanctuary protects the wreck of the USS Monitor.
As the prototype for a class of U.S. Civil War ironclad warships, Monitor significantly altered both naval technology and marine architecture in the 19th century. The Union vessel fought against the CSS Virginia in the infamous Battle of Hampton Roads, and although the battle ended in a draw, it initiated the dawn of iron warships.
Less than a year after its launch, Monitor sank on December 31, 1862, in a storm while under tow to Beaufort, North Carolina. Sixteen men went down with the ship. The vessel was lost for more than a century before a team of maritime archaeologists located the wreck site in 1973. Today, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary protects the wreck for future generations and shares this iconic vessel’s legacy with the public.
With a free research permit, Monitor can be visited by divers, but its depth and strong current make technical diving experience a must. However, through a partnership with The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia, anyone can experience Monitor by visiting its USS Monitor Center, home to the vessel’s turret, artifacts, and exhibits on its history and legacy.