Ironclad Legacy: Battle of the USS Monitor
GARY GENTILE'S POPULAR DIVE GUIDE SERIES
ISBN 0-9621453-8-6 hardcover with color dust jacket 6 x 9 vertical,
280 pages, 43 color photos, 66 black & white photos.
When John Ericsson conceived his "impregnable battery" he had no
idea that it would still be fighting battles a hundred years after
his death. In the mid nineteenth century he struggled to have his
concepts approved by distinguished industrialists mired in the past.
But then came the War between the States, and with war always comes
technological advancement and the adoption of previously
unacceptable innovations. Word arrived in Washington that the South
was building an ironclad ram that could destroy the Union fleet with
single-handed impunity. Unwittingly, the CSS Virginia (ex-USS
Merrimack) provided the impetus to goad reluctant Northern
politicians into funding the construction of an ironclad opponent.
Thus the Monitor came into being.
Then came the battle that forever changed the way naval strategists
viewed warship design and ship-to-ship engagement. The Monitor and
the Virginia fought to a standstill, neither ship inflicting
significant damage upon the other. Each was invulnerable to the
other and to land-based batteries. Nevertheless, by the end of that
year (1862) both ironclads were gone: the Virginia was blown up by
her crew to prevent capture, the Monitor foundered in a gale off
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
All was quiescent for more than a century, until the Monitor's badly
deteriorated remains were positively identified in 1974. Within
months an impregnable barrier was placed around the wreck site: a
political artifice called a National Marine Sanctuary.
The Monitor's next battle became a legal contest: the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted the ironclad as
its own private research domain, the author wanted it open to the
public for whom it had been established as a sanctuary. The
controversy raged for six years, until the author won vindication in
a court of law. He then led an expedition to the site and took
dramatic underwater photographs that captured the Monitor the way it
was in 1990--the way it will never be again.
No matter how strongly constructed, the ironclad cannot win the
battle against the forces of time and nature. Until its ultimate
demise, the best we can do is watch the wreck as it collapses more
each year--like a loved one on her deathbed--and remember the
Monitor for what meaning it has brought into our lives: politically,
historically, and culturally. Of these concepts the Monitor is an
The book is amply illustrated with black and white historical
photographs, as well as color photographs of the wreck as it appears
on the bottom.
"Noah gave us the heritage of the sea, NOAA took it away."
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