water spout

High seas made launching the Clelia submersible impossible at the wreck site of the USS Monitor. Note the funnel-shaped cloud descending from the low cloud bank, and the faint image of a water spout. Click image for larger view.

Mission to the Monitor: Word from the Field

September 14, 2001

John McDonough
Islands in the Stream Project Coordinator

camera icon View underwater footage of the USS Monitor.(940 K, QuickTime required).

After a peaceful night tucked behind Diamond Shoals to avoid the large swells from Hurricane Erin, we transited back to the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The team hoped for clear skies, calm winds, and well-timed swells so that submersible operations could begin.

Hatteras had other ideas in mind, however, as we faced the same strong swells and winds that were forecast to increase to gale strength by early afternoon. As we steamed back and forth over the site debating our options, the winds increased, the barometer dropped, and the clouds got lower in the sky. The weather radio warned of even harsher conditions for Saturday, and the possibility of Hurricane Gabriele reforming over the Gulf Stream and heading toward the sanctuary.

Therefore, the decision was made to head back to Morehead City, NC, to find good pier space for the anticipated storm. To punctuate our decision, several waterspouts formed on the horizon, as if bidding us "farewell." camera icon Watch underwater video of the Monitor as maritime historian Jeff Johnston explains how this mission was to begin planning for recovery of the ship's turret next season.


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