Monday, June 13, 2011

Leaving Ocracoke - Hello Hatteras

On Sunday (15th of May) we hopped on the Ocracoke-Hatteras Ferry to head up the Outer Banks to Nags Head. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes and there is no charge for the ride over to Hatteras.

Once leaving the ferry, we stopped at the Cape Hatteras Light House.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, also known as America’s Lighthouse, is the tallest brick beacon in the country standing 208 feet. The familiar black and white spiral-striped landmark serves as a warning to mariners of submerged and shifting sandbars which extend almost twenty miles off Cape Hatteras into the Atlantic Ocean. They are known as the Diamond Shoals.

The present lighthouse, officially completed and lit in December 1870, is the second built of three that have been constructed in Buxton. The first Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built in 1803. It was a sandstone structure 90 feet tall that projected an insufficient light beam using a collection of Argand lamps and reflectors. Sitars to a new height of 150 feet in 1854, and a first order Fresnel lens was installed, the most powerful of its day. The lamp was also fueled by whale oil, as was the previous light. During the Civil War in 1861, retreating Confederate soldiers took the Fresnel lamp from the lighthouse, to keep it out of Union hands. North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the inlets that allowed passage between them were considered of utmost strategic importance by Union forces to keep supplies from reaching the interior of the Confederate aligned southern state by sea. Shell damage during the war and structural deterioration prompted the construction of a replacement lighthouse in 1870, the one we enjoy today. The original lighthouse was then demolished in 1871. The ruins of which could be seen until a powerful storm in 1980 washed away the visible traces.

Whale oil was replaced by kerosene by the 1880’s, and by 1934, the beam was electrified. However, beach erosion threatened the base of the lighthouse by 1935, prompting the construction of a third lighthouse some distance away in the Buxton Woods. It was a steel skeleton tower that utilized an airport beacon. Fifteen years later, the 1870 lighthouse was again put back in operation, as erosion patterns changed. However, the Fresnel lens was vandalized in the 1940’s when the older lighthouse stood empty during those years. Now it uses two active 1000-watt lamps, visible for more than 20 miles. In 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved a half mile inland, to save it from the encroaching Atlantic. The Lighthouse was cut from its original base, hydraulically lifted onto steel beams and traveled along railroad tracks to its present position over the course of 23 days. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is now as far from the ocean as when originally constructed in 1870.

Judy had to check out the Cape Hatteras Information and Gift Shop. Once again, Judy discusses history with the Park personnel. She has never met a stranger. I waited on the bench outside while she made a new friend and shopped again for the grand kids.

Before I arrived in my bench sitting area, I did check out the osprey display.

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk or fish eagle, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching 60 centimetres (24 in) in length with a 2 m wingspan. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings.

The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

Tomorrow - Surf Side


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