Ten years ago this month, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse ended its historic journey.
That journey took the lighthouse about a half mile to the southwest of its original location, where it stood guard over the treacherous Diamond Shoals for almost 130 years, to move it away from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean.
The move was opposed by many Hatteras islanders, who were worried that the old lighthouse wouldn?t make it to its new site in one piece or who just thought it should stay in its historic location by the sea.
However, the National Park Service forged ahead with its plans to move the iconic beacon. After six months of preparation, the lighthouse, resting on a frame of I-beams was moved by hydraulic jacks over a mat of steel to an area surrounded by scrub pine and myrtle about 1,600 feet from the ocean, which is visible only from the top.
The relocation became known as ?the move of the century? and attracted thousands of visitors every day to watch the amazing engineering feat. Media came from all over the world to photograph, video, and write about the project.
After months of preparation, the move took just 23 days. It began on the rainy afternoon of June 17 and ended on the hot, windy, and humid afternoon of July 9.
I was one of the islanders who thought the lighthouse should stay at the edge of the sea, in its historic location.
Even now after 10 years, it?s still takes some getting used to seeing the lighthouse in the new location as I drive south on Highway 12 toward Buxton. When I drive through the village of Buxton, the lighthouse is barely visible from the highway.
On the other hand, the amazing feat of moving the 208-foot tall brick lighthouse that weighs about 4,400 tons was a singular experience in my reporting and editing career. It was, as I wrote 10 years ago, a triumph of the human mind and spirit.
On this tenth anniversary, I thought you might enjoy revisiting the historic journey of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We are republishing articles that were first printed in The Island Breeze in a special section in August of 1999 when I was the editor of that publication.
We have included six articles from that section on the Island Free Press site on the Features Page under Island History. The package includes two slide shows of images from the move by local photographer Scott Geib, a step-by-step on how the engineers moved it, and features on the moving men and on what the lighthouse has meant to islanders over more than a century.
It?s interesting a decade later to reflect on the move and what might have happened if the Park Service had decided to leave it in its original location by the sea.
Would it have fallen into the ocean by now?
The site is now marked with a ring of the original granite stones, engraved with the names of the lightkeepers.
Tropical storms and hurricanes and northeasters have sent the ocean surging over the area, just as they did before the relocation.
In fact, the relighting of the beacon, originally scheduled for Labor Day weekend of 1999, had to be rescheduled because of Hurricane Dennis. The tides from that storm ripped up part of Highway 12 between Avon and Buxton, and the storm surge flooded both the old and new lighthouse sites.
The beach in front of the historic site of the Hatteras light is about what it was before the move ? not noticeably wider or narrower.
The lighthouse would probably still be standing by the sea if it had not been relocated.
But most islanders and visitors have accepted the relocation and gotten used to the new site.
And the move of the century was an unforgettable experience.