Sonar helped archaeologists locate the USS Monitor, the first "ironclad" warship commissioned by the United States. The Monitor was lost at sea in 1862, and was not located until 1973, off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Illustration by Pierre Mion
  • Select Text Level:

    On December 30, 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Monitor was an “ironclad,” a steamship protected by heavy sheets of iron and other metals.
    The Monitor held up well in the Civil War’s Battle of Hampton Roads, fought just nine months earlier. In the battle, the Monitor faced off against the Confederacy’s own ironclad, the C.S.S. Virginia. (The Virginia was built with the hull and engines of the U.S.S. Merrimac, and it is sometimes referred to by that name.) The Battle of Hampton Roads is considered the most important naval conflict of the Civil War, although neither side could claim a decisive victory.
    Although the Monitor functioned well in the shallow, relatively calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the ship was heavy and sat low in the water. She could not hold up to the turbulent storms around the Outer Banks
    The Monitor remained one of many of the "ghost ships" of the Outer Banks until 1973. Then, an expedition partly funded by the National Geographic Society rediscovered the historic shipwreck using radar, photography, and a ROV. In 1975, the site of the Monitor shipwreck became the nation’s first national marine sanctuary.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    battle Noun

    violent encounter during a conflict.

    Civil War Noun

    (1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

    Confederacy Noun

    Confederate States of America, states which broke from the United States to form a new government during the Civil War.

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    decisive Adjective

    able to make decisions with certainty.

    engine Noun

    machine that converts energy into power or motion.

    expedition Noun

    journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

    function Verb

    to work or work correctly.

    Great Lakes Noun

    largest freshwater bodies in the world, located in the United States and Canada. Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior make up the Great Lakes.

    Gulf Coast Noun

    land in the United States surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.

    hull Noun

    main body of a ship.

    iron Noun

    chemical element with the symbol Fe.

    ironclad Noun

    steam-propelled warship protected by plates of iron or another metal.

    marine sanctuary Noun

    part of the ocean protected by the government to preserve its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy it in a sustainable way.

    Encyclopedic Entry: marine sanctuary
    Monitor Noun

    (1861-1862) steam-powered military ship protected by metal plates (an "ironclad") commissioned by the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

    National Geographic Society Noun

    (1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

    Outer Banks Noun

    barrier islands off the coast of the U.S. state of North Carolina.

    photography Noun

    art and science of producing still or moving images using the chemical reaction of light on a sensitive surface, such as film or an electronic sensor.

    protect Verb

    to take action to prevent injury or attack.

    radar Noun

    (RAdio Detection And Ranging) method of determining the presence and location of an object using radio waves.

    refer Verb

    to direct attention to something.

    ROV Noun

    remotely operated vehicle.

    sheet Noun

    large surface layer or covering.

    shipwreck Noun

    remains of a sunken marine vessel.

    storm Noun

    severe weather indicating a disturbed state of the atmosphere resulting from uplifted air.

    treasure Noun

    wealth, riches, and other valuable materials.

    turbulent Adjective

    violent or chaotic.