An artitst's rendition of the sinking of the monitor
Image: Harper's Weekly (engraving), 1863

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

Map showing the location of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

Location: 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Size: One mile in diameter

Designated: 1975

Habitat: Shipwreck, open ocean

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The wreck of the monitor
Photo: NOAA

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.