On this day in 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor slipped beneath the waves off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina during a storm. Sixteen of the sixty two crewmembers were lost that night. The men rescued by the U.S.S. Rhode Island would face the New Year with their thoughts on those swept off the deck by the ferocious waves and the men trapped inside the ironclad as she sank.
Staff here at the museum will have the Monitor’s crew in their thoughts today. Emails and conversations between friends and colleagues will inevitably mention them. So will some newspapers, Facebook pages and twitter posts. Many of us will stop by the Conservation Lab’s observation deck and look down at the large artifacts undergoing treatment in their water filled tanks. The engine, condenser, cannons, cannon carriages and the turret where the skeletons of two men were found. While still unidentified, these men now rest at Arlington National Cemetery and forensic reconstructions of their skulls are sitting not far from the pieces of their beloved ship. All mute reminders that accidents at sea have claimed, and still continue to claim lives.