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John Broadwater

Archaeologist & Author

Williamsburg, Virginia

In Brief …

John Broadwater currently is founder and president of Spritsail Enterprises, a maritime archaeological consulting firm located in Williamsburg, Va. Until his retirement in 2010, John was Chief Archaeologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. An underwater archaeologist, John has authored two books, nearly a dozen chapters in books by others, and numerous technical and popular articles, mostly concerning his research. Currently, he is completing two major archaeological reports and, at the same time, writing an adventure novel for middle-school readers based on his experiences as an underwater archaeologist.



John D. Broadwater was born and reared in southeastern Kentucky. In 1966 he received a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky and began a career in guided missile development (where it does take a “rocket scientist”!). In 1969, while working in Micronesia, he developed a passion for investigating the shipwrecks there, eventually self-publishing a book about his discoveries. Not long after returning to the States he made the decision to change careers and become an underwater archaeologist. In 1978, John became Virginia’s first State Underwater Archaeologist. For nearly a decade he directed a major shipwreck project in the York River that resulted in a permanent exhibit at the Yorktown Victory Center and his June 1988 article in National Geographic magazine.

From 1992-2005 John was Manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where he directed seven major expeditions to the remains of the famous Civil War ironclad warship USS Monitor, resulting in recovery of hundreds of significant objects and development of the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Va.

John holds an M.A. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. in Maritime Studies from the University of St. Andrews. He serves on several archaeological advisory boards, is a Fellow in The Explorers Club, and is listed in Who’s Who in America. In 1985, he served as first mate aboard the Godspeed, a replica square-rigged sailing ship, for an ocean crossing from London to Jamestown, and in 2001 he made a submarine dive two and a half miles down to explore the RMS Titanic.

John loves diving on shipwrecks and writing about his research. His current writing projects, in addition to his children’s novel, are detailed archaeological reports on the Yorktown Shipwrecks and the USS Monitor. He is also looking for additional opportunities to write magazine articles.

He and his wife, Sharon, who recently retired from a faculty position at the College of William and Mary, have lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, since 1978. They have two daughters and four grandsons.

USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage - by John D. Broadwater

On March 9, 1862, USS Monitor, prototype of a new class of armored warships, fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia, only a day after Virginia had ravaged the Union fleet blockading the James River.

The events at Hampton Roads changed the world’s navies. After centuries of dominating battles at sea, wooden, sail-powered warships would be rendered obsolete. The harbinger of that change did not last long, however. Less than nine months later, the now-famous Monitor was being towed south to Beaufort, North Carolina, when, in heavy seas, the vessel sank, taking sixteen of its crew with it.

Monitor was considered at the time to be a total and irretrievable loss; even the location of its final resting place became a mystery. Not until 1973 was the inverted hulk located, and in 1995, partial recovery of the wreck began under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the US Navy. The story of the subsequent protection and management of the historic resource, and the raising of major hull components including the gun turret, add another layer of history to the Monitor’s fascinating story.

Lavish illustrations (photographs, site drawings, and artifact sketches) complement this informative and highly readable account. Naval warfare buffs, amateurs and professionals involved in maritime archaeology, and Civil War aficionados will be intrigued and informed by USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage.

Published with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

What Readers Are Saying:

“An important account of the Monitor’s excavation and recovery by the archaeologist who led the efforts." A memoir of discovery and recovery, and the creation of a sanctuary. Broadwater’s account is authoritative. “There have been many expeditions to the Monitor site, with many differing technologies and objectives. Broadwater puts them into sequence and perspective as no one else can.” --David A. Mindell, Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing, MIT

“USS Monitor is possibly the most widely recognized warship in naval history. Impact of Monitor's engagement with CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia in March 1862 was felt around the world. The history of Ericsson’s celebrated "Cheese Box on a Raft" ended on 31 December 1862 when the ship was lost off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. New chapters in the ironclad's history began to unfold in 1973 when wreckage of the historic vessel was discovered off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Each new chapter attracted international attention as archaeological investigation of the wreck progressed to include recovery of significant technological elements of design and construction that made Monitor unique. Today at The Mariners’ Museum, not far from Hampton Roads where the Monitor made history, the ship’s machinery, turret, ordnance and an extraordinary collection of artifacts are accessible to the public.

“While Monitor’s story is not yet complete, Dr. John Broadwater has brought it up to date. No one could be more qualified to make that contribution. He has been intimately involved in research at the site since the first archaeological investigation of the wreck in 1974 and has directed each of the recovery projects undertaken by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. His first hand knowledge and experience brings each new chapter in Monitor’s modern history to life. It will be an exciting read for anyone interested in underwater archaeology, submerged cultural resource management, the technology applied to recovery operations and the ship that dramatically changed naval history.” --Gordon P. Watts, Director of the Institute for International Maritime Research

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