Local News

Thousands Watch Relighting of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Posted November 12, 1999

— After being moved half-a-mile inland, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is standing tall in all its glory.

After almost nine months in the dark, park rangers re-lit the lighthouse early Saturday evening. Those present included dozens of dignitaries, and thousands of people who just wanted to be a part of the historic celebration.

They waited to see that great big beacon of hope shine again.

Workers shut off the light before they moved the lighthouse to its new location.

That move was an engineering marvel. On March 1, crews lifted the 4,800-ton tower, and pushed it from its site where it stood for 129 years. They moved it half-a-mile away from the ocean that eroded much of the beach in front of the beacon.

At its new site, the lighthouse is safe.

"No matter how technologically advanced we become," said Capt. John Cook of the U.S. Coast Guard, "There will always be something reassuring in seeing a light peaking over the horizon. It's a feeling which thousands of sailors have gotten when they have seen the first sight of their home shores."

The lighting was originally scheduled for Labor Day weekend, but Hurricane Dennis toppled the lighthouse's weather tower and flooded the entire area surrounding it.

But those attending Saturday's relighting ceremony said the wait was worth the beautiful weather and the enthusiastic crowd.

The program took place on the grounds of the 1870 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Station and included brief comments by representatives of International Chimney Corporation, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service. Local singers Bett Padgett and William "MoJo" Collins sang original lighthouse ballads.

"(The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse) now stands in waiting at its new home -- waiting to be re-lit for all to see, and for all to know that once again it has not succumbed to sea," said Chris Bernthal, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent. "It's letting us know that it's ready to carry on as a guiding light -- a sentinel in the sea -- as it has been for so many years in the past."

The old site of the lighthouse is marked with a circle of large granite boulders which formed part of the lower plinth stones when the lighthouse occupied the spot.

"The lighthouse is in a new location, but it stands just as glorious, straight and tall as it did 129 years ago," said Bernthal. "While the lighthouse structure could be moved, it's role in America's history cannot be removed."

When the light in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was turned off on March 1, people were unsure if the lighthouse would survive being lifted and hauled.

But for many people at the relighting Saturday, the move from 120 feet away from the ocean to 1,600 feet was a marvelous feat.

"It's something the state can be proud of," said one spectator.

"It's a promise of faith and hope," observed another. "It's always shining."

The lighthouse will not open to the public until Memorial Day.

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