Local News

Lighthouse Move Proceeds Smoothly, With Help From Ivory Soap

Posted June 22, 1999

— The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is movingaway from the Atlantic Ocean more quickly than anticipated, in part because of a trick of the engineering trade that requires a tool you may have in your shower.

They slide machinery with Ivory soap. They slide buildings with Ivory soap. And now, they are moving the historic lighthouse with, you guessed it, Ivory soap. The soap gives the giant tracks what the engineers call "sliptivity." And so far it's working better than anyone expected.

"We were saying 28 days, a hundred feet a day," says consultant Pete Friesen. But the trip is smoother, and faster, than anyone had expected. And that is crucial duringhurricane season.

"In a few more days we'll definitely be out of harm's way," mover Jerry Matyiko says. "If a storm comes, we're far enough away. It would take a terrible hurricane to affect it."

Underneath the 129-year-old landmark, 100 rollers -- encased steel wheels -- move in a loop like a tank. With the help of the Ivory soap, they glide over the massive steel track, on a path that is not as level as you might think.

"We're climbing about six inches every hundred feet," says Matyiko. "Then we'll level off for about 2,000 feet. Then at that point we'll go downhill just a slight bit."

When the engineers finished their work Wednesday, the lighthouse was 452 feet away from its original location. It moved 135 feet Wednesday, 136 feet Tuesday, and 181 feet between Friday and Monday. It travelled 10 feet last Thursday, the first day it moved.

The project manager says the lighthouse should move beyond the first 850 feet by early evening Thursday. Engineers say they believe the lighthouse will be in its new location in three and a half weeks.


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