Author Topic: Monitor conservation article  (Read 448 times)


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Monitor conservation article
« on: March 05, 2020, 08:38:15 AM »


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Re: Monitor conservation article
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2020, 11:37:50 PM »
Said must be a subscriber to read article. Not happening.
It's not always "Survival of the fitest" sometimes the idiots get through.


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Re: Monitor conservation article
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2020, 11:15:34 PM »
 Sorry - here's another try at a link, plus a cut 'n paste (but w/o the pictures & video).  Please tell me if it works.

NEWPORT NEWS — An overhead crane performed the heavy lifting, raising the USS Monitor’s 16,000-pound iron gun from a holding tank and gingerly setting it into a custom-made cradle on the floor of the Batten Conservation Complex at The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Then archaeological conservator Erik Farrell began meticulously preparing what amounted to an industrial-size drill with a giant bit that would be used to chip the sediment from the gun’s massive 11-inch-wide, 11-foot-long barrel.

But before he put on protective earmuffs and fired up the machine on Tuesday, he came over to where a few of us were watching and explained what we were about to see.

While this was another day in the long-running saga of the Civil War-era ironclad ship, its recovery and preservation, it also was truly a big day for Farrell and the conservation staff that has been working for years to prepare the pieces of the ship brought up from the ocean bottom for public display. I asked Farrell if he was excited.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I mean, this one day is the culmination of years of work for me personally. It’s also a culmination of the last 150 years of these guns’ history. This is basically the final step in the cleaning process. We still have to get more [ocean] salt out of them, but it’s the beginning of the end of their conservation, and it means they’re getting relatively close to being accessible to people again.”

A few minutes later, I was talking to a bystander with more than a passing interest who shared the excitement and was well-acquainted with the patience when it comes to the Monitor.

“This is an area,” said John Broadwater with a smile, “where you have to have a pretty solid grounding in delayed gratification.”

Broadwater, underwater archaeologist for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, has been involved in all of this since the 1970s, when he was part of the team searching for the Monitor off the coast of Cape Hatteras.

He later served as superintendent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, directing seven major expeditions to the remains of the sunken ship that included several recovery missions. The last of those missions, in 2002, retrieved the two Dahlgren guns and the signature turret.

“The hardest decision was the decision not to recover the whole wreck,” said Broadwater, who wrote a book about the ship, “USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage,” and noted 80% of the wreckage remains underwater because it was deemed technically and financially unfeasible to raise it all.

“The decision was made: What is Monitor most known for? The gun turret, the first in the world. It’s still something that shows up on modern warships today. That was the most important feature.”

The Monitor’s 20-foot cylindrical turret rose from the middle of the low-profile ship, housing the two 11-inch Dahlgren guns. It was constructed by the U.S. Navy in response to Confederate efforts to develop an ironclad ship, which would become the CSS Virginia, in Hampton Roads.

The two ships faced off during the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862, circling and firing on each other but inflicting no serious damage. Both sides claimed victory, but the showing by the Monitor made certain the federal blockage of Hampton Roads remained intact.

The episode also ushered in a new era in naval warfare, as iron had proved itself more powerful than wood in ship construction.

Less than a year later, the Monitor sank in a storm off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Sixteen men were killed, while 46 were rescued. The wreckage was discovered in 1973.

The Mariners’ Museum was named by NOAA as the official repository for items recovered from the Monitor, and the collection at the museum’s USS Monitor Center contains 210 tons of artifacts. Some of the smaller artifacts, such as silverware and wedding rings, have already been conserved and put on display. A sailor’s coat found in compacted sediment in the turret required more than three years to conserve; one conservationist described reassembling scores of the coat’s wool fragments as “akin to solving a monochromatic jigsaw puzzle.”

Larger items, such as the turret itself and the two guns, remain in process. The artifacts were covered with a combination of sediment, corrosion and “live marine life” when they were brought up from the ocean floor, said Will Hoffman, the museum’s chief conservator. They have undergone years of specialized treatment to reduce the corrosion and draw out the destructive ocean salts. Hammers and chisels, as well as more subtle tools, have been used to remove the layers of sediment and other materials attached to the exteriors.

The interior of the barrels of the big guns, covered with the same sort of hardened materials, present an additional challenge because they are so long and the innermost sections difficult to reach. These are the largest guns to be bored for this type of process, Hoffman said.

The custom boring device was developed in conjunction with a local machine shop to clear the barrels without damaging the fragile surface of the guns, which have been softened to pencil lead-like consistency as long-term corrosion has led to a breakdown of the outer layer of iron, Farrell said. However, the underlying iron structure is solid.

The barrel of the other gun was cleaned last week. Conservation staff members were curious as to what might lie amid the sediment caked deep in the gun, so debris was sent over a quarter-inch screen and hosed off with clean water.

Last week’s take included many tiny seashells and three small plastic containers’ worth of coal, which apparently had fallen into the gun as the ship flipped and sank to the bottom with the engine room — including a place for storage of coal — landing and breaking apart on top of the turret, said Hannah Fleming, a material culture specialist.

With the second gun, the only item of interest to be discovered was a square bolt, which was interesting nonetheless because its head was intact and had not corroded away, which might have been expected after all this time, said museum spokeswoman Jenna Dill.

For now, the guns and turret are back in their chemical baths in the lab of the Batten Conservation Complex, undergoing further electrochemical treatment. The end might be in sight, but up close, public display is still a good ways in the distance.

“Ultimately, we will have them out of the tank, dry and displayable,” Farrell said. “Getting salt out of things is a slow process. The majority of the last 10 years has been soaking the salt out. With the bore clean, we’ll be able to get more of that out. Probably another year or two.

“I like to point out that, yes, that’s a long time in sort of normal timelines. It took 150 years for all of that to soak in. We’re forcing it back out with electrolysis, with chemical treatments, with everything that we safely can do, but we’re still trying to undo 150 years of damage, and that takes time.”


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Re: Monitor conservation article
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2020, 03:08:24 PM »
Wow, that gun looks great!   I've had shells I ran for 2-3 years.  Bigger the item, longer it takes.  Thank you Lamar.