releasing chain and cable for mooring

Crew from the USS Grapple prepare to release the chain and cable that will deploy one of the four heavy mooring legs. This will allow the ship to position itself directly over the wreck of the USS Monitor. (U.S. Navy photo) Click image for larger view.

crew in rigid inflatable boat in heavy seas

Grapple crew in a rigid inflatable boat fight heavy seas in an attempt to connect the ship to one of the four mooring buoys. (US Navy photo) Click image for larger view.

Navy divers are lowered over the side of the USS Grapple

Navy divers are lowered over the side of USS Grapple, on their way to install lifting equipment over the wreck of the USS Monitor (US Navy photo) Click image for larger view.

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 Navy’s Phase I site preparation expedition to the USS Monitor. The Grapple’s primary goal is to install additional lifting equipment and position the engine-lifting frame directly over the Monitor’s engine in preparation for the June–July 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 Grapple’s 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 Monitor’s engine during Phase II. The weather looks promising for the next few days, giving the Grapple’s crew hope that they can make up for the days lost to storm conditions.



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