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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Civil War wreck yields skeleton
Salvage crew sift through fragments found on board the USS Monitor
Divers have found a skeleton and bits of cloth on board
Divers preparing to raise a turret from the USS Monitor - the iron-plated warship that sank off North Carolina in 1862 - appear to have stumbled on one of its dead crew.

While examining the turret - which contains two 7,700-kilogramme (17,000-pound) guns - the expedition's chief scientist said US navy divers found a "fairly complete skeleton" pinned beneath it.

"We will make every attempt to identify this crew member," John Broadwater said, adding that buttons and scraps of cloth - perhaps fragments of a uniform - were also found.

The Monitor - among the first ironclads, or iron-plated ships - sank in a storm after its first battle during the Civil War, against the Confederacy's CSS Virginia in 1862.

John Broadwater
Broadwater: Team will trace the dead sailor's identity

Sixteen crew members were lost.

The Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, have been working for five years to raise parts of the Monitor in a $6.5m project.

The decaying ship sits upside down on the Atlantic Ocean floor in 72 metres (240 feet) of water, and is too fragile to be lifted up whole.

But hundreds of artefacts have been salvaged, including the engine and propeller.

All will be displayed at the Mariners' Museum.

Revolution in warfare

The expedition planned to have the massive turret - the final portion of the salvage project - out of the water and onto a barge off Hatteras, North Carolina, sometime on Sunday.

They planned to remove the skeleton before continuing with the operation.

But the weather worsened on Saturday, with waves peaking at more than a metre in height and 15-knot winds.

A specially designed giant steel claw was being used to lift the turret, which was among the first in the world to swivel - a feature that became standard on subsequent warships.

"They are excavating the very symbol of modern warship technology," said naval historian Alan Flanders of Old Dominion University.

See also:

31 Oct 01 | Americas
11 Sep 00 | N Ireland
22 Jul 00 | Americas
24 Aug 01 | Scotland
14 Feb 01 | Scotland
08 Jun 01 | Americas
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