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Steam engine from Monitor is raised from bottom of sea

SHARE Steam engine from Monitor is raised from bottom of sea

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The steam engine from the USS Monitor, the largest artifact from the wreckage of the historic Civil War ironclad warship, was raised Monday from the sea floor off the North Carolina coast, officials said.

A crane mounted aboard a 300-foot barge lifted the 30-ton engine from the Atlantic about 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, where the Monitor, which ushered in the era of the modern warship, sank while under tow in a storm in December 1862.

"It (the engine) did come up successfully," said Justin Lyons, a spokesman with the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, where the engine and other artifacts from the ship will be preserved and placed on display.

The first warship with a revolving turret and engine and living quarters below the waterline, the Monitor in March 1862 fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia to a draw off Hampton Roads in one of history's most celebrated naval battles.

Divers since April have been working to recover the engine as part of a summerlong series of expeditions. With the engine raised, divers will focus on removing the outer armor belt of six-inch iron plates covering the ship's turret, which then will be raised next summer, Lyons said.

The engine will be taken by barge and then truck to the museum, where it will be housed in a 10-foot deep tank for conservation, which will take about 10 years.

Divers in earlier expeditions recovered the ship's anchor, propeller and propeller shaft, along with artifacts that included the Monitor's distress lantern — the last thing seen before the ship sank and the first artifact retrieved, Lyons said.

The hull of the ship cannot be recovered, in part because of damage when Navy sonar operators during World War II mistook the wreckage for an enemy submarine and depth charges were dropped on it. A fisherman in 1991 also dropped an anchor through the deteriorating wreckage.