Cape Hatteras Light Station

          The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located in the village of Buxton. It is the tallest brick lighthouse on the American Coast at 208-feet high. Open to climbing in early April through mid-October, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the summer and from 10:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. during the spring and fall. There are 268 steps to a spectacular view of the National Seashore. The former keeper's quarters serves as a visitor center.

The Old Location
The Old Location

          I had the good fortune to climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Light Station. The view is everything they say it is, absolutely exhilarating. One can see the blue-green ocean, the Albemarle Sound, the form of the Island, the sea gulls and pelicans as they pass by, and of course the sandpipers scampering on the beach. I did not have my camera with me on that day in June 2000. Neither did I fully realize that this occassion would be my only chance to climb the Cape Hatteras Light Station from the old location. I had heard arguments, both pro and con for the movement of this lighthouse, but I had no idea it would happen so soon. When we returned to the Outer Banks in the summer of 2001 we found the lighthouse moved and, if I might say so myself, a little delapidated. The move had taken its toll. The entrance doors were boarded shut, not to be climbed. Later I heard that areas of the inside stairwell had given way. All climbing was further delayed. I have the utmost respect for the "bankers," that the Cape Hatteras Light Station will be fully renovated and ready for climbing once again. The history of this area is to precious to do anything else. Future generations will be able to return to these areas as we do today.

The New Location
The New Location

"Lighthouse Facts"

  • There are various numbers assigned to the height of this lighthouse. Generally, height is stated as 198 feet. After relocation, it gained about two feet in elevation.
  • Cape Hatteras is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America.
  • The light house was completed in 1870.
  • In 1870, with 24 panels in its 1st Fresnel lens, the light turned at 1/4 RPM. Today, its modern aerobeacon emits the same flash characteristic with one 2.5 second white "flash" every 7.5 seconds for six "flashes" per minute.
  • The beacon reaches 19 nautical miles; one nautical mile equals 1.15 statute miles.
  • The last Keeper was Unaka Jennette who closed the lighthouse due to erosion in 1936. The light was housed in a skeletal tower in Buxton Woods until relighting the striped tower in 1950.
  • The 1803, brown sandstone tower was destroyed after its Fresnel lens was shipped to Pigeon Point Light Station in California, following the completion of the 1870 tower.
  • There are 268 cast-iron steps that lead to the lantern room."

  • Credits:

    North Carolina Lighthouses
    Cheryl Shelton-Roberts, Photos by Bruce Roberts
    2000 Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts
    Lighthouse Publications, P.O. Box 1124
    Moorehead City, NC 28557
    Permission granted to use electronically, August 25, 2000

    "Why the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was Moved"

              "It had been the policy of the U. S. Lighthouse Service, the people who built the Hatteras Lighthouse in 1870, to move their lights out of harm's way when erosion threatened. Many smaller lights were moved and some like the lighthouse at Hunting Island in South Carolina were constructed of iron plates bolted together so they could be disassembled and moved to safety as the ocean advanced. In a historical sense the park service is following lighthouse service tradition in making the move to safety. After relocation of this National Historic Landmark, people will once again climb the spiral stairs to see the immense coastline and raw energy of the Atlantic breakers a safer distance from the tower, just as the keeper did when completed in 1870.

              The Cape Hatteras Light Station was relocated 2,900 linear feet to the southwest."


    Moving Hatteras Relocating the Cape Hatteras Light Station to Safety
    Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts
    1999 Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts
    Lighthouse Publications, P.O. Box 1124
    Moorehead City, NC 28557
    Permission granted to use electronically, August 25, 2000

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