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A Forensic Investigation of the Sinking of USS Monitor Using Modern Naval Architecture Tools and Technologies

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The Union ironclad warship USS Monitor foundered in heavy seas off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on December 31, 1862. This paper focuses on the development and validation of numerical models of a ship foundering using USS Monitor as a test subject. It begins with a brief account of the vessel’s history and the circumstances leading up to the sinking, then presents the best estimate available for the vessel’s loading condition and hydrostatics. The ingress of water into the ship at a number of locations was described by the survivors, some of whom speculated that the upper and lower hulls began to separate forward due to repeated impact with waves. However, the degraded condition of the wreckage after 149 years on the seafloor prevented an examination of that portion of the hull. Several linear and nonlinear seakeeping models were run on this hull form, including both under tow and after the anchor was dropped just prior to the sinking. The seakeeping models provide time histories of hydrostatic head at each of the down flooding locations along with estimates of the slamming of the overhanging bow in moderate to large waves as reported in survivor testimony. The numerical tools developed to support this analysis will be able to support the analysis of other vessel-foundering events.
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Keywords: Monitor; hydrodynamics; hydrostatics; seakeeping; sinking; underwater archaeology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2012

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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