Mission's triumph is in clear view

Crews off Cape Hatteras, N.C., might try to lift the historic gun turret from the wreck of the USS Monitor as early as this weekend.

Officials involved in the expedition said they hoped to lift the turret by Monday. If successful, the engineering triumph will be the culmination of five years of work to recover the most historic parts of the pioneering Civil War vessel.

The Monitor - the ironclad ship whose Hampton Roads battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, also known as the Merrimack, ended the era of wooden fighting ships powered by sail - sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras in December 1862.

The $7.1 million recovery expedition is being conducted by the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last month, Navy divers placed a 29-ton eight-legged lifting frame around the turret's exterior. Afterward, they struggled to make sure that the huge steel rig was positioned within a few inches of its optimum target.

Once retrieved, the turret will be transported to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News,

where it will be submerged in a 14-foot-tall 70,000-gallon steel tank for conservation.