The Mission Begins
June 26, 2002
Monitor National Marine Sanctuar
Monitor Expedition 2002 officially began on June 7 when, after several weeks of preparations and equipment loading, the derrick barge Wotan departed the Manson Gulf facility in Houma, LA, bound for the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). Aboard the Wotan were the Navy saturation divers and other key personnel, including Captain Christopher Murray, who is the program manager for the Naval Sea Systems Command, and Jeff Johnston, who is the program specialist for the Monitor NMS.
During the estimated ten-day tow to the sanctuary, Navy divers were busy preparing and training for the saturation dives that will allow them to spend up to five hours on the Monitor site for each dive. Jeff also took time to brief divers on the history of the Monitor and on its construction. Off the coast of Florida, Commander Bobbie Scholley, who is the on-scene commander for the expedition, joined the barge. As the barge entered the Gulf Stream heading north, the team held numerous planning sessions to break down the goals and objectives into individual work tasks. heading north, the team held numerous planning sessions to break down the goals and objectives into individual work tasks.
On June 17, the Wotan stopped in calm waters off Morehead City, N.C., where the Manson crew began rigging the mooring anchors. During that operation, however, the steel shaft on the swing motor for the 500-ton crane unexpectedly sheared. Because the crane is essential to mooring and lifting operations, the Wotan had to proceed directly past the Monitor site and on to Norfolk, VA. Here, repairs were made quickly, and the remaining Navy and NOAA teams embarked.
On June 24, the expedition began in earnest on two fronts: the Wotan departed Norfolk with all repairs completed and all team members aboard, and submersible dives were conducted in the sanctuary. The barge reached Cape Hatteras at 3:15 am on June 26. Despite the early hour and total darkness, the crew began deploying the eight 20,000-pound anchors that will hold the barge in position over the Monitor for the duration of the mission.
At 7:05 am, all anchors of the Wotan were set, and at 9:27 am, the first dive of the expedition took place. The divers reported nearly 100 feet of visibility and almost no current. Now the team is working to clear debris from the deck above the turret while keeping an eye on the weather, which is predicted to turn bad tonight.
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