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The first national marine sanctuary, established in 1975, is the wreck site of the USS Monitor. This is the famous Civil War ship whose battle with the confederate ship, the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac) revolutionized war at sea. The March 9, 1862 battle marked the end of an era of wooden-hulled, sailing warships and the dawn of an era of ironclad, turreted, and steam-powered naval vessels. The Monitor survived the battle, but later that year, on New Year's Eve, sank in a gale off the coast of North Carolina. It remained undiscovered for over 100 years. In 1973 it was found by scientists from Duke University using side scan sonar.

The now upside down Monitor is approximately 16 miles SSE of Cape Hatteras in 240 feet of water. Significant deterioration of the ship has occurred in recent years due to natural processes and an inadvertent anchoring incident.

Managing the sanctuary centers around preventing further deterioration of the wreck, recovery of important ship components and artifacts, protecting the wreck from damage by human activities such as vessel anchoring and fishing.

Over the last three years scientists and divers from NOAA, the US Navy, and the Mariners' Museum in Newport News,VA as well as a host of other participants, have been leading expeditions to record the condition of the wreck, stabilize her hull, and recover portions of the craft for restoration by the Mariners' Museum. Read more about the recovery efforts on the Mariners' Museum Expedition 2000 web page.

The Monitor photo collection contains images which portray only a small portion of the past, current and restoration information offered by the sanctuary and The Mariners Museum. For a more detailed description of the sanctuary and activities surrounding the Monitor, please visit the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary Web site.

The Collection


Monitor Then (1862) presents 11 photos depicting scenes from 1862, the year the Monitor fought its only battle and also the year it sank. Most of the images found on this page were taken from the Historical archives of the Library of Congress.

Monitor Now (2000) presents 18 photos depicting views of the Monitor in its watery grave. You will see mosaic images of video stills taken from the submersible Clelia, and some marine life that now calls the Monitor home.

Research & Recovery presents 22 images depicting diagrams drawn for archeological research, and photos of the most recent NOAA/Navy collaboration in recovering the engine, and stabilizing the Monitor's hull.


NOAA logo Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Group
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