Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mariners Museum

Last week, the family and I went on vacation to Williamsburg, VA.  I'm a sucker for colonial Williamsburg and we had a great time.  I also had a chance to visit the US Mariners Museum in nearby Newport News, VA and I have to say I was blown away.  The center piece of the museum is the USS Montior's turret and an exhibit on the Monitor vs Virginia (aka Merrimac) encounter at Hampton Roads.  Currently there is also a great Nelson exhibit, a history of the US Navy, some wonderful exhibits on boat building through the ages and one of the finest collections of model ships I've ever seen.  To be honest this was the highlight of my trip and I'm already planning a return.

The entrance of the Monitor / Virginia exhibit is one of the Virginia's guns that was disabled during her encounter with the Union fleet the day before the fight with the Monitor.  The USS Cumberland was rammed by the Virginia and despite sinking kept firing her guns and managed to shoot the muzzle of one of the Virginia's guns.

 In the museum there is a full scale replica of the bow of the Virginia being readied for it's up coming fight with the monitor - the display shows the replacing of the gun damaged by the Cumberland.

 The interior of the Virginia - it's a lot more cramped than I would have thought.  I can't imagine what it would have been like to be inside these iron ovens while the guns are firing.

 A cross-section of the Virginnia's armor - 10 inches of pine 8 inches of oak and 2 of steel.
 The gem of the museum is it's monitor exhibits. In addition to then actual turret, there are several reproductions that show the turret as they found her when it was raised...
and a fully restored turret cross section - even tinier than the Virginia's interior.
 I was fascinated by the turning mechanism for the turret and probably spent 40 minutes trying to figure out it's detailed workings.
 The actual turret, guns and steam engine of the monitor are not on display and are being preserved in vats of chemically treated water that preserves the metal.  Here's one of the Monitor's guns.
 The day I visited the turret tank had been drained to allow some academic research - again I spent 30-40 minutes gazing at the turrets and guns in their preservation tanks.
 There is a very neat exhibit on the interior of the Monitor which wasn't as cramped as the turret leads you to believe.  The crew accommodations are not spacious but bigger than I thought.  First up is the Captain's cabin
 and then the XO's
 Some 1/1200 scale miniatures of various Union ironclads from Langton Miniatures
An amazing diorama of a US colonial ship yard in what I think is HO scale (1/87th)
 This may be the upcoming theme for my 2016 Hisotricon games......
 The ship models are fantastic and I took pictures of maybe 60 of them - here is a US Whaling vessel.
the CSS Alabama - a ship that factored heavily in my imagination as a kid growing up along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

I really can't recommend the Mariner's Museum more highly - if you're in the area it's a definite must see.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Excellent..! I really must get back to my models of Monitor/Virginia and get them on the table.. I got stuck finding a set of rules with the right level of complexity/playability/price...

DeanM said...

Great looking displays; besides the impressive dioramas and models normally associated with museums, that huge vat with gun makes the place look like an aquarium or laboratory. BTW, when I saw "Mariners" my first thought was you were up in Seattle visiting :)

Paul O'G said...

Fantastic! Ive made an effort to visit a range of historical sites while here in the US but haven't been able to get down there for this one...yet!