'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Coming into the park. Ian was so excited!

Opened: 1870
Height: 187 feet (57 m)
Diameter: 37 feet (11 m)
Width: 37 feet (11 m)
Steps: 257
Built with 1,250,000 bricks baked in kilns along the James River in Virginia and brought down by scow and then hauled by oxen to the site in Buxton, N.C. It weighed 6,250 tons, built with no pilings underneath just a foundations made of heart pine. It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States and measures 210 feet from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the pinnacle of the tower. 
The beacon from the light can be seen some 20-miles out to sea and has warned sailors for more than 100 years of the treacherous Diamond Shoals, the shallow sandbars which extend some 14 miles out into the ocean off Cape Hatteras. These waters are very dangerous because of the cold-water Labrador Current from the north and the warm Gulf Stream from the south, converge just offshore from the cape. Its called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Click on either link in this paragraph to read about it! There are thousands of shipwrecks off this coastline.
The original lighthouse here was built in 1803, made of sandstone, was 90 ft. tall and burned whale oil.
This light was not tall enough or bright enough to effectively reach the mariners. So in 1863 they added 60 ft. and painted red on top ans white at the base. The tower was retrofitted at this time with a first order Fresnel lens.
By the 1860's it needed extensive repairs and by 1868 the construction on the new light was started. The new lighthouse was lit on December 1, 1870. The 1803 lighthouse was demolished in February of 1871. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse received the famous black and white stripe pattern in 1873. 
Due to beach erosion over the years the light was in danger of falling into the sea and something had to be done to save it. Waves were lapping at its foundations during storms. In 1999 it was moved to its present location.  The lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet in 23 days and now lies 1,500 feet from the seashore, its original distance from the sea. The Double Keepers’ Quarters, the Principal Keeper’s Quarters, the dwelling cisterns, and the oil house were all relocated with the lighthouse.

Process of moving! Click here to find out all about it!

It was quite a feat! And we were lucky enough to be there on vacation when they were doing this back in '99! It was really cool. Of course this was pre-digital camera for us and I did a quick look for some pics we took then but can't find any. Someday I will organize the pictures! If you have 50 minutes here is a documentary about the move!

Here are a few pics from this trip at the lighthouse!

Our motley crew at the top!

steps going down that is Isa, Steph and Ian you can see.
Going up!

Nephews taking a break at one of the landings

Path it moved on. Enlarge the photo to see old site circled. Taken from the tower.

There are three other lights on the northern Outer Banks...

Bodie Island Light (currently under renovation to enable tourists to climb!)

Currituck Light (We climbed this in 1999)
This is the northern most one and it is beautiful! The lighthouse keepers house is restored too.

This is Ocracoke Light and it is on Ocracoke Island and you have to take a ferry there. We climbed this oe in 1999 too.

Here are several books set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina...

Storm Surge
Lilah and the Locket
Snipe Hunt


  1. Looks like a fantastic trip! I enjoyed reading about the history of the lighthouse.

    1. Thanks Carole, they each have interesting tales. Bodie Island light is said to be named for the many sailors bodies that washed up near it from shipwrecks. Originally spelled Body. But it was really named after the family that owned the land it was built on!

  2. Lovely, it was my ambition to be a lighthouse keeper when I grew up. You might be interested in Bella Bathurst's book The Lighthouse Stevensons, which is about the construction of lighthouses around Scotland.

    1. I found a used a copy to order! I love touring the lighthouse keepers houses more than the lights I think.

  3. We climbed the Hatteras Lighthouse when we were there last year. I have to admit the stairs made me a little nervous.

    1. Hi Carol,

      Spiral staircases do that to me as well!! I am fine on the way up, but coming down is a whole different story!!


  4. Hi Peggy,

    I am afraid that we can't top your 187ft, the tallest lighthouse we have here in the UK, is 'Skerryvore', up in Scotland.

    At 150ft, I have however climbed 'Dungeness' lighthouse, in Kent. It was not a particularly pleasant experience though, as I do not like spiral staircases, at least not coming down (I am fine on the way up). I did this way back when, as part of a school trip and can always remember having to be helped down by a teacher, when I froze to the spot!!

    Looks like a great family day out and I am glad you had fun.


    1. That happened to me once too, Yvonne! The boys were little and we climbed a lookout tower that was only 60 some steps but it was very close and dark. I was terrified to come down and we stayed up there quite a long time while I gathered the courage to do it, trying not to show the boys how afraid I was! I hope to someday see the lights in Scotland!


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