WHEN THE USS MONITOR SANK OFF CAPE HATTERAS, N.C., in a Dec. 31, 1862 storm, its loss marked the end of a crucial leap forward in American history.
Spawned by the deadly ingenuity of the first industrial-age arms race, the odd-looking little ironclad with the revolutionary gun turret was the world's first battleship -- and the first warship to fight like a machine rather than a sailing vessel.
The Monitor's story did not stop, however, with its 240-foot descent to the bottom. Lost for more than 110 years, the elusiveness of the wreck only added to the ship's legend--and that aura of inaccessibility continued to grow after scientists discovered the hulk lying upside-down in 1973.
For nearly 30 years afterward, the Monitor's would-be saviors fought the storm-tossed waters off Hatteras in a futile rescue effort.
Not until 2002, after five summers of wrestling with the unpredictable currents, did a determined band of Navy divers and Monitor National Marine Sanctuary archaeologists finally pluck the famous gun turret from the Graveyard of the Atlantic.