MDSU2 Mobile Diving & Salvage Unit TWO
MDSU 2 COMMAND HISTORY
Navy divers getting Monitor ready for engine recovery
May 03, 2001
HATTERAS, N.C. (AP) _ Navy divers said Thursday they are making progress on rigging an 84-ton frame to lift the engine from the Civil War ironclad Monitor sometime this summer. ``We're working on a big frame that sits over the engine,'' said Lt. Cmdr. Alan Tupman, commanding officer of the USS Grapple. ``It's a big puzzle and we're working on putting the pieces together.''
Tupman and members of his crew spoke by cell phone from the ship, a salvage and rescue vessel based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Virginia.
Tupman's crew has replaced corroded wire slings on the galvanized framework that was erected last year on the Atlantic floor some 240 feet from the surface. The divers from the Grapple also are installing four hydraulic rams on the framework to pull the engine from its murky compartment in the Monitor's deteriorating framework.
While being towed to North Carolina on Dec. 31, 1862, the Monitor sank during a storm, killing 16 people. A marine sanctuary surrounds the wreckage, which was discovered in 1973.
Divers have been going to the site each summer since 1995 to salvage parts of the ship. The entire ship cannot be recovered because it is too fragile.
Last summer, the 75-foot-long, 35-foot-wide, 25-foot-high steel bridge was placed over the ship.
Tupman said the Grapple will complete its three-week mission, tethered to four gigantic anchors some 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, and sail back to Norfolk by next weekend. Once the engine is freed from the wreckage and secured to the frame, a crane mounted on a barge will lift the entire frame out of the water and take it to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virgnia.
Bad weather the first week of the voyage kept divers aboard the Grapple, but the weather since Monday has been quiet and sunny and at least 12 sets of dives have been made. Each dive allows a worker only 36 to 38 minutes on the bottom before they have to rise slowly and undergo about two hours of decompression.
Rapid currents in the area, near the Gulf Stream, have made diving difficult at times.
Chief Petty Officer Jerry Willoughby of Panama City, Fla., said the current was so strong that sometimes ``it's a battle to keep from being swept off the diving stage.''
Willoughby said the view of the historic wreck was good as the divers descend to the bottom on the diving stage, or platform. ``We were able to see the famous turret,'' Willoughby said. ``It's upside down. We didn't have a lot of time to look around. We were doing quite a lot of work.''
The 120-ton revolving gun turret and the armor plating revolutionize naval warfare when the Monitor battled the Confederate ironclad Virginia to a draw in Hampton Roads in March 1862.
The area around the wreck, once covered over with sand, is ``pretty well dug out. You can make out the outline contour of it,'' Willoughby said. ``The turret is well defined because it sits off to the side of it.'' The divers said the ocean was teeming with fish, too, including tuna, triggerfish, barracuda and black bass.
The Monitor sanctuary is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which also plans to raise the turret.
Global Supports U.S. Navy Divers in 'USS Monitor' Salvage Operation
CARLYSS, La., July 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Global Divers Division of Global Industries Offshore, LLC has been awarded a project by the U.S. Navy to utilize Global's 1500-foot saturation diving system and personnel to support Navy diver salvage of the engine and turret of the "USS Monitor." Upon completion of this project, Global's saturation system will be the only U.S. Navy approved civilian saturation diving system.
The "Monitor," a 987-ton armored turret gunboat, sank on New Year's Eve 1862 during a fierce storm 16 miles south of Cape Hatteras in 240 feet of water. The ironclad's turret, the first of its kind, could rotate its guns 360 degrees eliminating the need to maneuver the ship into firing position. The U.S. Navy plans to salvage the engine, turret, and other artifacts and display them in the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
Recovery of the "Monitor's" engine and turret will be done in three phases. Phase I of the 2001 operations ended in April after divers safely reached the wreck and made observations and measurements needed by Navy engineers and salvage crews to recover the engine and turret. During Phase II, an Engine Recovery System (ERS) was placed directly over the "Monitor's" engine and the ERS will lift the engine during July. Phase III will prepare the gun turret for recovery in 2002.
Global is currently involved with Phase II and III of the project, managed by NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary Program, and anticipates participation in the 2002 turret recovery. Global is supplying a 1500' saturation system, consisting of a diving bell and pressurized living quarters, and support personnel for the Navy divers. The system's diving bell is lowered to transport divers to the sea floor and return them to the surface for reconnection to the pressurized living quarters. This system enables divers to remain at depth for approximately 20-30 days before decompressing.