Full skeleton found aboard 'Monitor'©Associated Press
August 4, 2002
HATTERAS, N.C. -- Navy divers preparing to raise the 160-ton gun turret of the ironclad USS Monitor from the bottom of the Atlantic have found what is believed to be the skeleton of one of the Civil War ship's doomed sailors.
Expedition leaders hoped to raise the turret today despite roughening weather.
Divers planned to remove as much of the skeleton as possible from inside the turret before the raising.
"We have a fairly complete skeleton," said John Broadwater, manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and chief scientist for the Monitor expedition.
Archaeologists said last month they had found apparent human remains in the sediment inside the turret, but they consisted only of two bone fragments.
Additional digging revealed a skeleton as well as buttons and scraps of cloth that may have been part of a uniform, Broadwater told reporters Saturday during a conference call.
The lower part of the skeleton was pinned beneath one of the two cannons inside the turret, he said.
"We will make every attempt to identify this crew member," Broadwater said.
Sixteen officers and crew members died Dec. 31, 1862, when the Monitor sank during a storm.
Expedition members had expected calm weather through the weekend, but by Saturday afternoon waves were running at 2 to 4 feet and wind was blowing at 15 knots.
A custom-made, eight-legged steel claw was to be used to hoist the turret and its twin 17,000-pound cannons onto a barge. Depending on the weather, the work was expected to begin about 4 this morning.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with the Navy and the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., on the $6.5-million project.
The turret will be taken to the museum to be preserved and displayed along with the engine, propeller and nearly 600 other artifacts that already have been recovered from the Monitor, which lies in 240 feet of water 16 miles off Hatteras, N.C.
The raising of the turret is the last major job in a five-year effort to save the unique features of the Union ship. The entire vessel is too fragile to be raised.
The steam-driven Monitor and the Confederate ship CSS Virginia revolutionized naval warfare when they fought to a draw on March 9, 1862, near Newport News in the first battle of ironclads -- ships covered in iron plates to repel cannon balls. Until the Virginia and the Monitor, most fighting ships were wooden and relied primarily on sail power.
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