Offshore from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the Gulf Stream collides with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador Current from Canada. This current forces mariners heading south toward a dangerous twelve-mile long sandbar called Diamond Shoals. Countless shipwrecks there have led to the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” A lighthouse was first authorized at Cape Hatteras in 1794, and the station began service in 1803. By the 1860s it was decided that instead of extensive repairs to the old tower, a new one would be built. The new tower went into service on December 16, 1870. At 198 feet, it’s the tallest lighthouse in the United States and the second tallest brick lighthouse in the world.
Cape Hatteras Light Station was transferred to the National Park Service in 1937. Over the years, efforts were made to stabilize the beach in front of the lighthouse as the ocean crept closer. After years of study and much debate, the lighthouse was moved 2900 feet from its original position in 1999. The keepers’ houses and other light station buildings were also moved. The National Park Service continues to manage the lighthouse and keepers’ quarters, as well as conducting public tours. This December 16 marks the 150th birthday of the 1870 tower, and the National Park Service is putting on a special event. You can watch the event on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Facebook page and Dare County’s CURRENTtv.
The Outer Banks Lighthouse Society actively supports all North Carolina Lighthouses. Bett Padgett has served on the organization’s board of directors since 1999, and is serving her second stint as president. Bett is a North Carolina native who taught guitar at NC State University for 29 years. She continues to teach music, and she also writes and performs original music. John Havel is a New Jersey native who’s lived in North Carolina for more than 40 years. His love for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and its history led to John becoming a board member of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, and he serves as the historian for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
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Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org