As the lighthouse turns -- or not
By JOY CRIST
nothing more comforting than standing on your deck on a clear night and
looking out over the horizon towards Buxton to catch that
once-every-seven-second flash of light that marks the turning of the
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
that’s typically what's expected after dark on the island, for the past
two nights, something was notably different about the landscape. The
lighthouse had apparently gotten “stuck” and had, well, stopped turning.
while that’s an unusual occurrence on its own merit -- most people
can’t recall the last time it happened -- what’s even more unusual is
that during the day or two that it was not sweeping the horizon,
apparently not many people really noticed.
Perry of Buxton noticed. But this is most likely because she’s a
neighbor of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and has considered the
lighthouse a constant in her life for 42 years.
And also, when it stopped, it was shining into her bedroom window.
just noticed one night it wasn’t turning, and then the next night it
wasn’t turning,” she said. “We just shut our blinds, so it really
wasn’t a problem. But it was just directed right at us.”
husband, Bryan, comes from a long line of lightkeepers, so the rotating
light has been a steadfast presence of sorts for Susie and her family,
as well as most island locals. “It is the ‘normal’ in my life to see it
turning, that's why it was obvious to me,” she said. “It has happened
before, but I don’t think it’s happened since I moved to this house 15
posted her observation on Facebook, and effectively brought it to the
attention of a wide number of people on the island who simply hadn’t
noticed that anything was askew – including the National Park Service.
On Monday morning, though, once the National Park Service was contacted, the fix began almost immediately.
Kowlok, the chief of maintenance for the Cape Hatteras National
Seashore, had his staff members first take a look to determine if it
was a simple repair. After seeing that it wasn’t a breaker flipped off
or anything quick and easy, the Park Service notified the U.S. Coast
Guard, which handles the larger issues with the light, which is an aid
the problem is something we can resolve, we take care of it
immediately. If we can't resolve the problem, we contact the Coast
Guard,” he said.
the power will go off, or the breaker will go off during a storm event,
but this is the first time I know of that it’s been stuck,” he added.
of the Coast Guard were at the lighthouse by about 10 or 10:30 a.m. on
Monday morning and had left by 11:30 or so. The Visitors Center
attendant reported that the lighthouse had been fixed by noon –
apparently, just a few hours after the initial notification.
the lighthouse is back to its old rotatingself again, and visitors can
once again look forward to seeing that flashing light every seven
seconds, instead of the darkness of the past day or two – or constant
annoying beam, depending on where on the island you were standing.
while the lighthouse being turned off or stuck doesn’t have the same
implications as it used to a century ago, with modern mariners using
technologically-advanced navigational systems instead of looking for
the distant light, emergencies can happen, and it’s helpful to have a
back-up inshore guide.
Buxton residents who were in the path of the stuck light will hopefully
sleep tight tonight, while the rest of us will spend the next day or so
shaking our heads and wondering how we could have missed a sweeping
beam of light that is visible for miles at a perfect stand still.
hoping the next time is happens – in at least 15 years or so – we’ll
not only notice, but will also have an opportunity to admire and
actually enjoy this once-in-a-blue moon occurrence.
Just so long as it’s not pointed directly at us.