Monitor Versus Merrimack
Monitor Versus Merrimack

Photograph courtesy of Bettmann/Corbis


Map of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

16 miles (26 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Protected Area
1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers)

Date Designated
January 1975

Pelagic, or open, ocean
Artificial reef

Key Species
Black sea bass
Red barbier
Sea anemones
Sand tiger shark
Sea urchins

Cultural Resources
The remains of the Civil War ironclad U.S.S. Monitor

Sixteen miles (26 kilometers) off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, amberjack and scad dart past the remains of a major piece of Civil War and naval history, the famed ironclad U.S.S. Monitor. With its low-slung design, armored hull and deck, and revolving gun turret, the Monitor represented a revolution in naval technology when it was launched. Though the hastily built Monitor survived the first ever battle between ironclads—its inconclusive 1862 duel with the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack) in Hampton Roads—it sank in a fierce gale only months later.

The Monitor’s resting place remained a mystery until its discovery by a scientific expedition in 1973. Lying upside down on its displaced turret some 235 feet (72 meters) below the ocean’s surface, the once dreaded warship had become an artificial reef hosting corals and sea urchins. Too damaged to be recovered intact, the historic wreck, with its surrounding waters, instead won designation as the United States’ first marine sanctuary. Urgent efforts are now under way to shore up the Monitor’s overturned hull, which could collapse at any time.

For more information,
check out NOAA’s Monitor profile:

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
c/o The Mariners’ Museum
100 Museum Drive
Newport News, VA 23606

Tel: +1 757 599 3122
Fax: +1 757 591 7353
Sanctuary Web site:


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