Wartime shipwrecks focus of Historic Port of Washington program

Published 6:35 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

Perhaps one of the most consequential naval battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Hampton Roads also marked a historic evolution of maritime warfare. Pitting the USS Monitor against the CSS Virginia, it was the first conflict between two ironclad warships in world history.

Today, almost 158 years later, the remains of the USS Monitor lie at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, taken under during a heavy storm less than a year after the famous battle. The ship was rediscovered in 1973, and a half-mile radius around the wreck was established as the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in January 1975.

The superintendent of that sanctuary, David Alberg, will be the guest speaker during the Historic Port of Washington’s quarterly speaker series Thursday at the North Carolina Estuarium.

As superintendent, Alberg provides daily oversight for the sanctuary and oversees the long-term preservation of the wreck site and the artifacts that have been recovered from the ship, according to HPOW.

He will speak about the historical significance of the Monitor and other wartime shipwrecks off of the coast of North Carolina, also sharing information on a proposed expansion of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The proposed expansion would help protect other significant shipwrecks, including a collection of World War II-era ships that represent the largest battlefield of that war in the continental United States.

“In just three years, from 1942 to 1945, 90 ships were lost off North Carolina alone as a result of this action. The result is an amazing collection of 78 merchant tankers and freighters, eight Allied warships and four German U-boats resting on the seabed as a memorial to this history and to the sacrifice of Allied servicemen and the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II,” the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary webpage states.

Thursday’s presentation will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the N.C. Estuarium, located at 223 E. Water St., Washington. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5. Seating is limited to 60 people and reservations can be made by calling 252-948-0000.