Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Getting From Here to There

Original Location of Cape Hatteras Light

I mentioned in a previous post (“The Spiral Staircase”) that the Cape Hatteras Light had been moved a while back to get it out of harm’s way.  When originally built in 1870, it stood roughly 1500 feet from the Atlantic Ocean.  By 1970 (100 years later), that distance had dropped to about 120 feet.  But that’s what barrier islands do.  They “migrate”.  In this case, from east to west.  Wind and surf pick up sand from the ocean side and deposit it on the other side of the islands (in this case, the Pamlico Sound side).  Given the nature of some of the hurricanes that roll through this area from time to time, 120 feet was clearly not enough.   If nothing was done, the light would eventually be lost.

But it wasn’t until 1999 that the light was finally moved to its current location.  Many thought it couldn’t be done.  No one had ever moved a 200 foot tall brick structure, weighing nearly 5,000 tons, anywhere.  Even after the money was appropriated, there were legal battles over the move.  Those who were opposed said that the old lighthouse would be destroyed if the move was attempted.  Those in favor of the move said that the light was doomed if it was left alone.  No one knew for sure which side was right.  The “move” side eventually won simply because doing nothing would be failure by default.

Finally, in June 1999, the light was lifted from its old foundation – the location of which is shown here – and the journey began.  Twenty – three days and 2,900 feet later, it arrived at its new home.  Once again, it was about 1500 feet from the sea.  But who knows.  Maybe in another 100 years it will have to be moved again.

It does make me wonder about other things, though.  Eleven years ago we managed to do what many thought was physically impossible.  Today we don’t seem to be able to do much of anything.  Including stopping an oil leak on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  What the hell happened to us?  When did we become powerless?  Where are all the people who put men on the moon and got the Apollo 13 astronauts back to earth? 

Think of it this way: What if the people responsible for moving this great lighthouse had been the same people who are now responsible for fixing this massive oil leak?  Personally, I think all we’d have to show for it is a pile of black and white bricks…….


6 Responses to “Getting From Here to There”

  1. Don

    That had to be some move across sand. I’ve seen houses moved on paved roads but over sand must be a task.

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, it was. If you’re interested in how they actually did it, there are a number of online references (and pictures). One of those is mentioned by Paul in his comment below.

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, I’ve seen that site. Did you notice that the primary contractor was from Buffalo, NY (International Chimney Co.)? I guess that makes sense, since they were used to building and repairing tall brick structures.

  2. Mark Hobson

    Where are all the people who put men on the moon and got the Apollo 13 astronauts back to earth?

    They’re following the money-for-nothing-and-your-chicks-for-free trail in the financial sector. Making money-for-nothing is way easier and way more profitable than making it by putting men on the moon, or being a doctor, or developing alternative energy solutions, or running a business that actually makes something tangible, or ….

    and, did I mention that you also get your chicks for fee?


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