Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hunley, Monitor teams to collaborate on preservation

February 23, 2005

Scientists working to conserve the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley as well as the engine and turret of the Union ironclad Monitor will collaborate on preserving the historic vessels.

Officials from the USS Monitor Center in Newport News visited the lab in North Charleston, S.C., where the Hunley is being preserved on Tuesday to compare notes.

Their main concern is how to conserve the Civil War cast- and wrought-iron vessels.

"It's very appropriate," said Mike Drews, a Clemson University material science professor working to conserve the Hunley's iron hull.

"These ships represent the technology of this country in the 1800s and the ingenuity on both sides."

The Hunley, the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship, went down after sinking the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Charleston in 1864. The sub was raised in 2000.

The Monitor was the Union Navy's first ironclad and in 1862 battled the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack, to a draw. The Monitor was lost in a storm later that year off North Carolina.

The Monitor was found in 240 feet of water in 1973. Its engine was raised in 2001 and its 140-ton turret was raised two years later.

John Broadwater, manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, hopes the scientists can develop a new faster, less expensive way to conserve corroded metals.

"There are plenty of opportunities to work together," he said. "Both the Monitor and Hunley are sitting in tanks waiting to be conserved. They are essentially contemporaries, made of cast and wrought iron and they've been in very similar conditions."

Paul Mardikian, the Hunley's senior conservator, said the Monitor's engine, like the Hunley, is made of various types of metal traditionally conserved using different methods.

To use such methods, the Monitor's engine, or the Hunley, would have to be taken apart.

"If you had to take it apart and put it back together again, it would not be the Hunley," Mardikian said. "We need a more holistic way to approach that kind of thing."



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