Filed Under:

Lost At Sea: Do You Know These Civil War Sailors?

Play associated audio

In 1862, the USS Monitor — a Civil War-era ironclad warship — fought one of the world's first iron-armored battles against the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. Less than a year later, a violent storm sank the Union ship off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The wreck was discovered more than a century later, and subsequent searches have turned up more than just a crumbling ship — they also found the skeletons of two of the Monitor's sailors in the ship's gun turret.

To this day, their identities are unknown, but David Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, is trying to change that. With help from the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and forensic scientists at Louisiana State University, Alberg's organization has released facial reconstruction images made from the sailors' skulls that he hopes will help identify them.

Alberg tells NPR's Melissa Block that scientists learned a lot from the sailors' remains. They know one of the men was likely in his early 20s, while the other was likely in his early to mid-30s. They have the sailors' height, weight and even samples of their DNA.

"From an anthropological perspective, the challenge now is more of a genealogical challenge: How do we go out and find somebody that can come forward, provide DNA to compare their data to what JPAC has done," Alberg says.

He says he hopes the facial reconstruction photos will prompt people to revisit family albums, talk about family history and, if they think they may be related to the lost sailors, come forward to claim their kin.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Eyes On The Street' Details Jane Jacobs' Efforts To Put Cities First

Robert Kanigel's new biography recounts the life of Jacobs, a Greenwich Village public intellectual who championed street life and community. Critic Maureen Corrigan calls it a powerful work.
NPR

Whales, Sea Turtles, Seals: The Unintended Catch Of Abandoned Fishing Gear

An endangered whale was found dead over the weekend, entangled in derelict fishing gear. Such incidents have been on the rise in recent years. A new California law aims to combat the problem.
NPR

#DearWashington: Readers Share Personal Concerns This Election

NPR is asking audiences to share something that they want their leaders in Washington to know about why this election matters to them.
NPR

I Guess We Need To Talk About Pepe The Frog

A cartoon frog became popular, then a pariah. Now the Anti-Defamation League has identified it as a hate symbol. We take a short look at the amphibious, ambiguous meme.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.