In light of Gary Gentile's latest newsletter Another Boston Tea Party, I re-edited and re-posted my article concerning the current disposition of the U.S.S. Monitor.
Twenty years ago this past July, I was invited to be a part of the Monitor Photographic Project group led by Gary Gentile. During the two week expedition, I dived, photographed, co-captained and acted as Diving Safety Supervisor for the project. Besides the location and depth of the Monitor, numerous natural obstacles were set before us, including sharks eating buoys, strong currents, boats and weather. Government interference proved to be the most divisive obstacle.
N.O.A.A.'s assigned observer's procrastinations and demands from the most insignificant check list of diversions were chronic and accented with continuous complaints about such minor trifles as the sanitation of the head. The unwarranted, uncontrolled ramming and boarding of our dive platform while decompressing divers tenaciously clung to a oxygen umbilical; proved to be a deliberate harassment exercise by N.O.A.A. Marine Fisheries agents. Had the oxygen lines been severed by the boat of armed government agents, they would have certainly put the project divers at great personal risk. Paralyzing injuries or deaths from decompression illness could have ensued from inadequate or lack of decompression from the extreme depth. Read more about this epic event in Gary's book Ironclad Legacy.
Gary Gentile Production Newsletter 12-2-2010 Another Boston Tea Party
My long-time subscribers might remember a newsletter from last year, in which I wrote about the destruction of a minesweeper in Boston Harbor. To recapitulate, the YMS-14 was sunk by collision with another warship during World War Two. The wreck lay unmolested until I featured it in Shipwrecks of Massachusetts: North.
Marcie Bilinski and I discovered the site where the remains of five depth charges lay exposed among rocks and kelp. I photographed the depth charges, and used one of the photos to illustrate the back cover of the book.
I joked about how official heads would turn when they discovered that inert explosive charges lay only one hundred yards from the main shipping channel, plied on a regular basis by tankers that transported liquid natural gas. In a knee-jerk reaction, those official heads turned way too far. The U.S. Navy took it upon itself to demolish the wreck - without authorization from the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources.
The largely eroded depth-charge remnants could not have exploded on their own. Nor could they have been of any use to terrorists. Explosive material deteriorates over time, the same way food rots and medicine goes bad - by means of chemical breakdown.
Marcie and I conducted extensive surveys of the wreck site this past summer. If I claimed that the Navy blew the wreck to smithereens, I would be understating the case. Hardly any smithereens remain to mark the site.
Fortunately, Marcie had accurate GPS coordinates, else we might have thought that the wreck had been blasted to oblivion and hauled away to the scrap yard. Only by searching for hours at the end of a line reel were we able to encompass what used to be the site of a historic landmark that now hardly exists.
Navy divers detonated so many pounds of explosives around the depth charges that the wreck now looks like a moonscape. The seabed was unearthed by the blast, large boulders were shattered and the pieces were tossed great distances, and marine life was obliterated.
One bronze rudder post is completely missing. The other one was laid down horizontally by the explosion, and a deep pit was gouged out of the rocky substrate beneath it. The bottom contours are so changed that the broad patch of sand that extended outward from the depth-charge area is gone; the seabed is now a debris field littered with shattered rocks.
If there is any saving grace to this travesty, it is that some of the timbers of the wooden hull have been exposed by the removal of overburden. That is small recompense for the destruction of a fascinating shipwreck.
You can thank the Navy for demolishing a piece of America's past.
NOAA is trying to expand Marine Sanctuary to gain control of Mid- Atlantic Wrecks. As a tax paying citizens, I urge you to protest NOAA's gross mismanagement overseeing the U.S.S. Monitor Sanctuary. The site was dramatically damaged by NOAA's neglect while allowing the wreck to remain in situ, and further by their abhorrently wasteful pet excavations, where tax payers financed multi-million dollar projects that could have been financed privately with less destruction. NOAA has unreasonably restricted public access to the site to control and prevent damage to the historic site. In fact, the evidence of the deterioration of the wreck was predicted and proven during the first photographic expedition by privately funded members of Gary Gentile's Photographic Project in July of 1990. The final decimation inflicted by NOAA's misguided leadership was the death blow to the site where tax payers financed the unwarranted removal of the foundational turret structure. The wreck immediately collapsed after the gutting and today is no longer a worthy photographic site. NOAA's failure to manage has wasted obscene amounts of unneccessary tax moneys with no warranted benefit. If we don't complain to our representatives, seven years to get a permit will be the norm... to dive any wrecks. There should be unrestricted access to all these sites and NO PERMITS. NOAA is not saving anything except their jobs... They are gaining public sanction to destroy and regulate more wrecks like the Monitor.
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