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Cape Hatteras - New Location

Lighthouse History

Built: 1803 Original Tower - 1870 Current Tower

Type: Conical Tower: white and black spiral bands with red brick base.

Height: 198.48 Feet

Status: Operational maintain by the United States Coast Guard and the National Park Service

Location: North of Cape Hatteras Point, Outer Banks

Lens: 1870 First order Fresnel

Notes: Congress, in 1794, authorized the construction of a permanent lighthouse at Cape Hatteras. It took almost ten years before a "light was raised" in October, 1803. Built in sandstone, 90 feet high, the tower was a start, but only a start in providing the protection needed in those hazardous waters. A major problem through years was illumination; the the small lamp fueled by sperm whale oil did not penetrate the darkness beyond the shoals. Storms shattered the windows and broke the lamps, putting the lights out for days at a time.
In 1837, the Captain of a coasting vessel reported that "...as usual no light is to be seen from the lighthouse". In 1851, Lieutenant H.K. Davenport, skipper of the mail steamer, Cherokee, complained "Cape Hatteras Light, upon the most dangerous point on our whole coast, is a very poor concern."
Creation of the Lighthouse Board in 1852 made a decided improvement in the conduct of all United States lighthouse operations. Composed of men familiar with the problems involved, the board answered directly to the Secretary of the Treasury and soon acted to correct the deficiencies at Cape Hatteras. Among the first corrections was to raise the tower to more than 150 feet and to install a new lighting device, a first order fresnel lens. Developed in France by Augustine Fresnel, the lens utilized prime and magnifying glasses to intensify a small oil wick flame into a powerful beacon of many thousands candlepower. The improvements made the Cape Hatteras light one of the most dependable on the coast.
Cape Hatteras light burned steadily for seven short years before the fighting of the Civil War extinguished it again. Confederate forces wanted the lighthouse destroyed to deprive Federal vessels of the beacon. In a series of battles in 1861, Union forces managed to save the tower but retreating Confederated took the fresnel lens with them. Although the light shone again in 1862, the tower had been damaged and the Lighthouse Board recommended extensive repairs. Studies showed that it would be less costly to build a new tower than to repair the old one and the 1867 Congress appropriated $75,000 to reconstruct the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Because of erosion danger, it was built 600 feet north of the original tower.
 new Fresnel lens and oil lamp were installed and a light flashed >from the new tower on December 16,1870. The old tower, no longer useful and in danger of falling, was blown up and totally destroyed. The final "touch" for the new structure was the distinctive black and white striping ordered by the Lighthouse Board in 1873 to make the tower " a better day mark on this low, sandy coast." 
Cape Hatteras light does a short flash every 7.5 seconds.  The cape is actually a bend in Hatteras Island, one of the long thin barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks. The first lighthouse at the cape was built in 1803; it was replaced by the current Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1870, which at 198.48 feet from the ground to the tip of its lightning rod is the tallest lighthouse in the United States and the tallest brick lighthouse in the world.
In 1999, as the receding shoreline had come dangerously close to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the 4830-ton lighthouse was lifted and moved inland a distance of 2900 feet. Its distance from the seashore is now 1500 feet, about the same as when it was originally built.

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