Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

Diver looking at the wreck of the Monitor
A diver inspects the wreck on the USS Monitor. Credit: NOAA

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, situated just 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C, protects the shipwreck of the famed Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor. The Monitor sank on December 31, 1862 and was discovered by a team of researchers led by John G. Newton in 1973. Today, the sanctuary focuses on maritime heritage, archaeology, marine conservation, and education and outreach.

In 1987, NOAA completed baseline studies at the site to determine the rate of deterioration of the hull and changes in the sanctuary environment. Observations made in the 1990s indicated an alarming pattern of accelerated deterioration in several areas of the wreck. In 1998, NOAA released a long-range plan that outlined a six-step proposal for stabilizing portions of the Monitor's hull and recovering the vessel's steam engine and rotating gun turret. Expeditions ot the site in 2001 and 2002 resulted in the recovery of hundreds of artifacts including the steam engine, turret, and two Dahlgren guns.

Today, general research goals for the sanctuary include the continued scientific recovery and dissemination of historical and cultural information preserved at the site, the study of the Monitor as an artificial reef, and the careful review and monitoring of privately-sponsored research/ dive activities in order to ensure that the site is protected and preserved. Interested graduate students and principal investigators should contact the Research Coordinator to discuss their research ideas prior to launching a project. Research activities may require a permit from the sanctuary.