One of the most memorable lost at sea memorials anywhere is located on the west side of Battery Park in Manhattan, near the line to board the ferries to the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island. The memorial was designed and fabricated by the artist Marisol Escobar, based on a photograph from an actual event during WWII. In that event a German submarine attacked and sank an American merchant vessel, thought to be an oiler. The submarine surfaced and took photographs of the survivors. The memorial depicts the scene in one of those photographs. The submarine did not pick up the survivors. They were all lost at sea in the vast Atlantic.

The brilliance of Marisol’s design can best be appreciated by viewing the monument over an extended period of time. At periods of high tide one can only see a hand sticking out of the water. When the tide is lower one can see the hand and the stricken seaman’s head, and at other times his entire upper torso. As ships pass by, the waves created give the memorial a sense of life and motion. The seaman’s head bobs above and below the water’s surface, as the arm of a seaman in a lifeboat strains to save his shipmate. Two others on the lifeboat are looking directly at the submarine, which will eventually submerge again and leave them for dead. There is a plaque at the memorial that reads:

Dedicated to all Merchant Mariners who have served America from the Revolutionary War through the present day. In the prosecution of war and in pursuit of peaceful commerce, unrecognized thousands have lost their lives at sea. Their sacrifices have helped secure America’s liberty and prosperity.
The sculpture was inspired by a photography of the victims of a submarine attack on an American merchant ship during World War II. Left to the perils of the sea, the survivors later perished.

This memorial serves as a marker for America’s Merchant Mariners resting in the unmarked ocean depths.
Numerous photographs of the memorial can be found on the Internet. I encourage all readers of this blog to seek them out. The memorial is considered an overlooked gem among New York City monuments. A 2009 editorial in the New York Daily News sought to bring focus back to the memorial and to the dangers faced by modern merchant mariners on the world’s oceans. Michael Daly’s editorial can be found at: