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USS Monitor Crew Honored, Faces Reconstructed

Scientists have recreated the faces of two crew members who died at sea a century and a half ago, and they're hoping the public can help identify them.

Nearly 150 years after 16 USS Monitor sailors died when their vessel sank in a New Year's Eve storm, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has released forensic reconstructions of the faces of two crew members.

Officials unveiled the reconstructions and dedicated a plaque in memory of the Monitor crew during a ceremony sponsored by the United States Navy Memorial Foundation at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

The skeletal remains of both sailors were discovered inside the Monitor's gun turret after it was raised from the ocean floor in 2002. The men's identities remain a mystery.

"These are the faces of men who gave their lives for their country at a pivotal moment in American history," said David Alberg, superintendent of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. "The best case scenario is that someone will emerge, perhaps a descendent, who can give these faces a name."

Scientists estimated one of the men to have been between 17 and 24-years-old and about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with relatively good oral hygiene. The other man was about one inch shorter, between 30 and 40-years-old, and probably smoked a pipe. Both men were white, although the Monitor's crew included at least one African-American.

A Civil War-era Union ironclad warship that revolutionized naval warfare, the USS Monitor is best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862. The engagement marked the first time iron-armored ships clashed in naval warfare and signaled the end of the era of wooden ships.

Less than a year later, while being towed to a new field of battle, the Monitor capsized and sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., carrying 16 crew members to their deaths.

To date, no trace of the other 14 missing members of the crew has been found.

Forensic anthropologists at Louisiana State University's Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory volunteered their efforts and created the facial reconstructions by using a combination of scientific and archaeological research, 3-D clay facial reconstruction, computer-generated modeling, and computer-enhanced imaging techniques.


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