U.S. Warship Found in 'Astounding Condition' After 160 Years on Sea Floor

A U.S. warship has been found to be in "astounding condition" after 160 years resting on the sea floor off the coast of North Carolina.

On New Year's Eve 1862, at the height of the Civil War, the fledgling ironclad Union Navy warship USS Monitor foundered and sank 16 miles off Cape Hatteras on the North Carolina coast, having become overwhelmed by a storm. Sixteen men died, many going down with the ship's turret.

AQUA
A diver investigates the wreck of the USS Monitor. NOAA/Tane Casserley

The wreckage of the Monitor was discovered in 1973, and was designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1975. Since then, the Monitor has been visited as part of various expeditions to recover the turret, propeller and other artefacts for preservation, many of which required over 100 divers to pull them up.

In the latest expedition, Valor in the Atlantic, the NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries partnered with the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration to investigate the wreck to gather data on the wide variety of marine life that exists there, as well as the deterioration of the ship's hull.

An ROV, a remotely operated underwater vehicle, was used to examine the site, and it found something surprising: the ship was in much better condition than previously expected in the wake of the regular disturbances caused by storms and even hurricanes.

The team found that over the last 160 years, the Monitor has avoided being overwhelmed by time itself.

Picture from the Valor in the Atlantic expedition, tweeted by the NOAA.

Tane Renata Casserley, resource protection and permit coordinator at the NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, told McClatchy News: "The wreck is in an astounding condition after being on the seafloor for 160 years and weathering all of the environmental conditions off Cape Hatteras, including exceedingly strong currents and hurricanes."

Since 1851, the state has weathered over 300 hurricanes.

As reported by The News and Observer, Casserley said: "That same iron hull and armor belt built to withstand the rigors of war has now enabled the Monitor to provide a stable habitat in its new role as an island of life. It truly was incredible to see the transformation at the bottom of the ocean. There was often so much marine life on the Monitor it was difficult to see the shipwreck itself."

This uniquely preserved wreck and its new aquatic crewmates present a rare insight into the inner workings of an ironclad during the Civil War, while at the same time having a wealth of information for biologists looking to study how wrecks can become hubs for marine life.

AQUA
Divers pass over the captain’s quarters of Monitor. NOAA

According to a tweet by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are healthy corals living at the wreck site that are swarming with life, and even predators like tiger sharks present at the so-called "living shipwreck."

"This is the first time we've seen the Monitor, with this type of technology, in nearly 20 years. So, we're very proud to be back," it said.

Newsweek has contacted NOAA for comment.