Student Paper Proposed for the International Marine Forensic Symposium of 2012

USS Monitor

The USS Monitor, was designed and built by Swedish Immigrant John Erickson, specifically to counter the threat of a Confederate Ironclad that was under construction on the hulk of the sunk but salvaged USS Merrimack.   When the Confederate ironclad renamed the CSS Virginia, was ready, it steamed out and started fighting the wooden hulled US Navy ships that were blockading the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.   On the first day of battle, the CSS Virginia successfully destroyed two US Navy ships.   When it returned the next day, it was met by the USS Monitor and an all day battle commenced.   Neither side was able to defeat the other, and the Virginia retreated as the tide was falling, and she did not wish to run aground and be lost.   Soon after, the Confederates destroyed the CSS Virginia to prevent it from falling into the hands of the advancing Union army.

With the immediate threat of a Confederate Ironclad breaker in the Chesapeake removed, it was decided to move the Monitor down to fight another rumored Ironclad under construction at Charlestown, South Carolina.

The Monitor left the Chesapeake under tow by the side wheel steamer Rhode Island, along with a second Monitor derived Ironclad the Passaic undertow by another side wheeler.   While passing Cape Hattaras, on December 31st 1862, a storm with 12 to 20 ft significant wave height came up.   The Monitor with only 12 to 18 inches of freeboard, and many instances of immature water tight technology slowly down flooded and sank.   16 of the 62 souls aboard were lost, but only two were found in the turret when it was eventually raised.   Many were swept away by the waves as they tried to make their way across to the rescue boats from the Rhode Island.   The Passaic survived by turning and running before the storm while dumping everything light enough to lift up to the top of the turret and throw overboard, including most of her 60 pound shot.   This was not an option for the nearly 200 pound shot on the Monitor.

The student effort will include building a detailed 3D AutoCad or Rhino Model of the vessel from period drawings and probably a visit to the original plating model located at the NY Historical Society.    Technical support in the form of input information will be provided by Sean Kery and by the Monitor Team based out of the Mariners Museum where the salvaged portions of the vessel reside.   Considerable research will be necessary to figure out the weights and likely locations of the full load of stores and consumables within the body of the ship.   An estimate of the coal bunker conditions has already been done

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Additional tasks will be to develop a detailed weight budget and intact and damaged stability analysis.   When the best guess CG and Gyradius numbers are available, Mr Kery will rerun his existing seakeeping models and develop time series of the sea water head versus time for each of the known down flooding locations.   An existing estimate of the pumping capacity and whey they were turned on will also be provided.   It will be an objective to match the known time line.   The detailed weights information will also be used to feed an Orcaflex model already prepared by Mr Kery, that will show the vessel rolling over and sinking as it did on that night 150 years ago.

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