In Virginia, Vivian and Evan got to hang with their cousins. And we did fun adult things with Aaron and Beth like visiting a brew pub and arranging a seafood boil. Not to take away from any of these fine activities and people, but we also got to go to the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News!

My family groans when we enter museums. I like to read everything and view everything s-l-o-w-l-y. If its a maritime museum, it feels as if time has stopped. Or even reversed. Jo first experienced this time freeze when we went to the maritime museum in Halifax many years ago when we were there for Michelle and Alu’s wedding (in a sad irony, as I type this Michelle and Alu are both in Halifax today for a less joyous event). About five years ago we went to the Vasa museum near Stockholm. That was a treat but also a torture because Jo and the kids were done and ready in a mere 5 hours!! So I was pleasantly surprised when Jo took Aaron’s suggestion to go see the Mariners’ Museum. Hell – it was pouring rain anyway and admission is just a buck. One dollar. What could go wrong?

I won’t bore you with the details. If you are interested in the first battle of the ironclads, this is where they are restoring the salvaged remains of the USS Monitor. This tank below contains the full 21 1/2 foot rotating turret of the ship, slowly being electrolysed back into life after having spent a hundred years in her watery grave. The photo above is a model of the Monitor’s arch enemy, the CSS Virginia, and in the background is a full scale mock of the ship.

The Monitor and the Virginia were the world’s two first ironclad battleships to do battle. They pounded each other at close range for hours on a March morning in 1862 in the calm enclosed waters between Newport News and Norfolk and changed the course of naval battles and American history from that moment forward. Neither ship won, but neither ship suffered much damage. According to historians, if the Monitor had not arrived when she did, the Virginia may instead have steamed north up the Potomac and shelled the White House and the Capitol with impunity and today we wouldn’t be trying to outlaw the Confederate Flag.

[photo credit to the Library of Congress at

The museum tells the fascinating story of how both these ironclads came about and the circumstances of their first meeting. I hurried through everything as fast as I could, finished, walked back to where the family was waiting patiently, and realized that this was just one exhibit in the fascinating museum. If you are within a hundred miles of this place, go take a look. Even Vivian, Evan, and Jo would agree.

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