With its iconic black and white barbershop pole design, the tallest brick lighthouse in the USA stands guard against the treacherous Cape Hatteras waters that have claimed countless ships over the centuries, laying claim to the title “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.
The warm Gulf Stream flows up from the south and the cold Labrador Current flows down from the north. Guess where they meet? Cape Hatteras and Diamond Shoals.
Which is why the weather is so unpredictable and treacherous causing so many shipwrecks, both ancient and current. Even today sailing past Cape Hatteras requires extra caution or a risk of losing your boat. When we sailed s/v Winterlude past here, we chose the ICW inside because the weather wasn’t conducive for new cruisers to head offshore.
The lighthouse we visited today, originally built in 1870 at a cost of $155,000, was a replacement for the first lighthouse claimed by erosion of the ever shifting sandbars that are the outer banks. Climbing the lighthouse features 248 steps and 12 stories, according to the NPS, contrary to everything online that proclaims 268 steps. We didn’t count the steps, as we didn’t realize they were controversial until after the fact.
Over the years, the “new” 1870 built lighthouse was also in danger due to erosion, so the entire structure – and the lighthouse keeper’s houses and fuel buildings – were moved in 1999 to its present location further inland to protect it from falling into the sea.
The beach in front of the lighthouse is wide and beautiful … except between September 15-ish and March 31-ish when they are inundated with 4 wheel drive trucks with surf fishing enthusiasts. Not that I think that surf fishing should be disallowed, but maybe in the shadow of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse?
Have you visited the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse? What cool fact did you learn that I forgot? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan