Progress Report -
U.S. Navy Phase I
April 30, 2001
John Broadwater, Manager
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
The U.S. Navy salvage ship USS Grapple (ARS-53) departed the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Virginia, at 9 am on Saturday, April 21, officially commencing the Navys Phase I site preparation expedition to the USS Monitor. The Grapples primary goal is to install additional lifting equipment and position the engine-lifting frame directly over the Monitors engine in preparation for the JuneJuly engine recovery expedition (Phase II). Time permitting, Navy divers will also map and recover artifacts that lie in the work area.
Early on April 22, the Grapple began deploying four large buoys, each held in place by a heavy steel anchor. The buoys were placed so as to form a 1/4-mile square with the Monitor in the center, comprising a four-point mooring system to which the Grapple could position itself for diving. Shortly after 11 am on the 23rd, the Grapple was positioned precisely over the Monitor, and the crew prepared to begin dive operations.
Harsh Conditions, but Diving Begins
During the night, however, heavy seas and strong currents caused the southernmost anchor to drag on the seabed, causing the Grapples position to shift more than yards. The ship was forced to disconnect from the mooring in order to reposition the displaced anchor. By then, the weather had deteriorated even further, preventing the redeployment of the fourth mooring leg. The Grapple was forced to go to anchor and the supply boat, which was to bring additional supplies and personnel from shore, had to be cancelled.
The morning of Wednesday, April 25, saw a continuation of high winds and heavy seas; gale warnings were posted for the Hatteras area. On the 26th, the Grapple was hit with a full-blown gale with winds exceeding those of the storm that sank the Monitor in 1862. The NOAA Weather Service reported 45+ knot winds and seas of up to 16 feet! By the 27th, conditions had improved considerably, and the Grapple was able to reset the fourth mooring leg and reposition itself over the Monitor. Diving finally commenced on Saturday, April 28. Navy divers then began the arduous task of installing heavy hydraulic rams, chains and cables that will be required to raise the Monitors engine during Phase II. The weather looks promising for the next few days, giving the Grapples crew hope that they can make up for the days lost to storm conditions.
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