USS MONITOR Shipwreck Project

Off the coast of Cape Hatteras NC
CBS NEWS; Harold E. Edgerton
Film type:
16 mm color negative
Run time:
Bruce Hall, Gordon P. Watts Jr., Harold E. Edgerton, John G. Newton
The August 1977 research expedition to the USS MONITOR shipwreck site off Cape Hatteras, NC, documented in this film, was a joint civilian and government project that included researchers from NOAA, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and Harold E. Edgerton of MIT. It begins with a CBS News broadcast with announcer Bruce Hall showing the deep-sea equipment being used, and Edgerton with the project crew (including project leader John Newton and archaeologist Gordon Watts) as they retrieve a lantern and metal hull fragments from the wreck site. The remaining film clips show researchers examining the lantern artifact. The crew also retrieves Edgerton's deep-water camera and strobe that had been lost on the wreck-site during fieldwork operations in 1974.

Tagged: archaeology, artifact, Cape Hatteras, CBS News, Civil War, deep-sea photography, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, ironclad, JOHNSON-SEA-LINK, lantern, NOAA, shipwreck, submarine, survey, underwater photography, USS MONITOR

00:00:01 Introductory information: film title, synopsis, date, run time.
00:00:23 CBS News broadcast clip: voice-over by reporter Bruce Hall provides some historical background to the maritime conflict of the American Civil War, while viewing a black-and-white image of the Civil War battle at sea between the ironclad USS MONITOR and Confederate ship MERRIMAC.
00:00:44 Film footage of a research expedition at sea in August 1977 at the wreck site of the USS MONITOR, two weeks into the expedition, off Cape Hatteras, NC. It is a joint civilian and government expedition, with NOAA and the Navy, to photograph the wreck site and remove artifacts.
00:00:58 The JOHNSON-SEA-LINK submarine research vessel, from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, pulls close to the main research vessel from which the footage is being filmed.
00:01:17 Divers in a small rubber dinghy wait on the surface to retrieve an artifact being brought up from the MONITOR wreck site below, using an inflatable lift bag.
00:01:22 Hall's voice-over: “The iron plate [piece of the vessel’s hull] was brought to the research vessel where research scientists say it should provide a great deal of information about the ship and the durability of the metal.”
00:01:32 A ship lantern retrieved from the wreck site is displayed on the deck; Hall comments that it is “believed to have been one used as a distress signal by the crew when it was sinking.” Crewmembers and researchers are shown taking pictures of the lantern.
00:01:50 Harold Edgerton examines the lantern find.
00:01:58 Archaeologist Gordon P. Watts, Jr. (with mustache) examines the ship lantern. Hall states that if the wreck is to be raised, the first attempt will probably be made in three to five years.
00:02:02 Portion of hull is displayed and examined on deck.
00:02:10 The CBS NEWS transmission ends with “Bruce Hall, CBS News, off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.”
00:02:11 Shots of artifacts being examined by crew members on board the research vessel. The lantern is shown in a bucket of seawater.
00:02:32 Good shot of the lantern held out of bucket.
00:02:37 Off-camera someone says, “What a prize!”
00:03:05 Edgerton is shown taking pictures of the ship lantern; other team members also take pictures.
00:03:33-7 [film is distorted]
00:03:46 Edgerton asks, “Is there a strobe light in it?” as he takes more snapshots.
00:04:23-8 [film is distorted]
00:04:24 Edgerton talks about a little fish that had been living inside the lantern while it was still on the wreck site. They retrieve the fish from inside the lantern and dump it in a bucket.
00:05:37 Comments about the lantern: “that’s gotta be the anchor lantern, Roger;” “the top is all brass.”
00:05:58 [There’s a] “little crab inside lantern – thinks we can’t see him;” “squid/octopus in the bucket, too.”
00:06:50-1 [film is distorted]
00:06:58 “That glass is in perfect condition after 100 – 150 years.”
00:07:20 Shots of a metal hull fragment lying on the deck.
00:07:22 Edgerton is shown in the pilot house, and then he goes out on deck. Several images of people maneuvering deep-sea equipment off the side of the vessel, with a small rubber dinghy hovering nearby.
00:08:01 Another research vessel approaches.
00:08:32 A snorkeler in the water assists in maneuvering marine-encrusted camera apparatus [Edgerton's deep-sea camera that was lost during a previous fieldwork expedition to the wreck site in 1974] being recovered and hoisted on board.
00:08:54 Edgerton observes from the side of ship. Then he speaks to a person (off-camera). Edgerton describes the item as “kinda rusty.” To a question, “You didn’t know you’d get it up did you?” Doc answers, “No – well, sure, I’ve been working on it persistently, but it’s taken longer than I thought it would take. The next question is, is the film any good. Can it be repaired and used again […]” [voice is unintelligible due to background motor noise].
00:09:35 Edgerton’s lost camera equipment is raised; it is partly covered in a deflated yellow lift balloon. At 00:10:37 someone exclaims, “The camera’s recovered!”
00:10:41 Edgerton and others take pictures of the recovered deep-sea camera.
00:10:57 Edgerton looks more closely at the salvaged deep-sea camera and gives instructions on how to maneuver the camera equipment from the deck position.
00:11:17 The camera apparatus is lifted into a vertical position by Edgerton and the crew.
00:11:22 Edgerton says, “I can tell you right now, the resale value of this is pretty low… Wouldn’t you say this camera has had it?”
00:11:35 Close-up of camera detail.
00:11:38 Film snow.
00:11:51 Film ends.
00:11:55 © MIT 2010 credits.

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