|View single post by Widow|
|Posted: Tue Nov 7th, 2006 12:14 pm||
|I, too, thought the Mariners Museum in Newport News is a fascinating place. I went there in July 2006 specifically to see the Monitor's turret. I'd read so much about how it changed naval warfare forever, that I just had to lay eyes on it.
The museum is building a huge addition to house the Monitor artifacts, and is still under construction. I took a "hard-hat tour" of the facility after the construction workers left for the day. Because the Monitor had sunk some 140 years ago, all the iron had absorbed salt. Before the artifacts can be exhibited in open air, the salt has to be leached out by soaking in fresh water. The turret is in a huge tank, slowly giving up its salt; it may take ten years. When it sank off the North Carolina coast on 31 Dec 1862, the top-heavy Monitor rolled over and settled upside down. Therefore, to protect the turret from possible damage, it is upside down in its fresh-water tank.
The water was cloudy, so the only visible part of the turret was the rim, and only about a third of that. Still, it was the real thing, and at last I got an idea of just how big - or small - it is. Right beside it is another tank with the two Dahlgrens, one on top of the other. They're huge!
One of the Monitor's deck plates has been specially treated and is on exhibit in open air. It's a single piece of iron, four feet wide by ten feet long by two inches thick. Around the edge are the holes for riveting it down. The deck plate is flat on the floor, so that you can put your hands on it.
I put my hand on the deck plate. In fact, I put BOTH hands on it and let my imagination go.
Just think, time travel back to 9 Mar 1862. Steaming into Hampton Roads, just looking for a fight. I'm standing on one of the deck plates, waiting for orders to go below. The Cumberland was rammed and sunk the day before. The Minnesota had got into shallow water at low tide and was stuck, helplessly waiting for the Virginia to come out and finish her off. We move near the Minnesota to protect her. Here comes the Virginia, she's enormous! The Monitor is much smaller, draws much less water, and can literally run rings around the Virginia. With our revolving turret we don't have to be broadside in order to hit her. We whang away at each other, I'm going deaf from the noise and concussions in the turret, but we save the Minnesota.
I'm pretty busy and don't have time to think about history in the making. From that day on, all wooden navies are obsolete. Naval warfare has entered the Iron Age.