July 1 st marks the twentieth anniversary of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move, and the National Park
service will be holding a special event in celebration. David Hallac, the Superintendent of National Parks
of Eastern North Carolina, invites the public to join in the free event commemorating the move.
The event will begin at 9:30 am on Monday July 1 st near the lighthouse and will include speeches, a
question and answer session with expert panelists, artifacts from the lighthouse move, expanded
interpretive ranger talks, activities for children, and free lighthouse climbing. The Outer Banks
Lighthouse Society and Outer Banks Forever are partnering with Cape Hatteras National Seashore to
make this event memorable for visitors and the local community.
History of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Move
When the second Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was completed in 1870 it was located approximately 1,500
feet from the Atlantic Ocean. By 1919, the gradual westward migration of the Outer Banks left the
lighthouse only 120 feet from the Atlantic’s dangerous waves. Several attempts, using the construction
of dykes and breakwaters were made to stop the erosion but they were unsuccessful.
In 1935, the waves finally reached the lighthouse. The light was replaced by a beacon on a four-legged
steel tower on top of a sand dune and out of reach of the ocean. The National Park Service took custody
of the abandoned brick tower.
In 1999, with the surf only 15 feet from the base of the tower, it was time to move the historic brick
lighthouse structure or risk losing it the ocean. International Chimney Corp. of Buffalo, New York was
awarded the contract to move the lighthouse, assisted by, among other contractors, Expert House
Movers of Maryland.
The Cape Hatteras Light House Station Relocation Project was an incredible undertaking. It became
known as "The Move of the Millennium" and International Chimney and Expert House Movers won the
40th Annual Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award from the American Society of Civil
Engineers in 1999. The National Park Service describes the preparation and move as follows:
“To accomplish this feat, the original foundation down to the pine timbers was replaced by temporary
shoring beams and supports. Then a steel beam mat was inserted over the timber mat with temporary
posts on top. As cross beams and main beams were set, the temporary shoring parts and beams were
removed. Hydraulic jacks built into the main beams were used to effect the 6 foot raise so that roll
beams and rollers could be introduced. After all jacks were shored, using oak cribbing, the system was
pressurized and the jacks began lifting. At each lift level, jacks were retracted and shored up in sequence
and the system lifted again to 6 feet. At this point it was ready to roll.
“After it was lifted, the tower moved along to its new location 2,900 feet to the southwest on steel mats
starting on June 17, 1999. Steel track beams became rails and roller dollies permitted the support frame
to move along the track. Three zones of hydraulic jacks kept the lighthouse aligned. Push jacks, clamped
to the track pulled the frame forward 5 feet at a time.”
Today, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands a safe distance of 1,600 feet from the ocean and continues
to protect mariners from the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
Fly Over the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
For us at OBX Airplanes, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of our favorite Outer Banks landmarks to
fly over during our Air Tours and Biplane Rides. We offer Biplane Rides and Air Tours that depart from
Manteo and can take you anywhere on the Outer Banks, but one of the best trips you can do is to fly
south to Cape Hatteras and circle the iconic lighthouse! Call OBX Airplanes today to book an Air Tour in
one of our Cessna Airplanes or a Biplane Ride in our beautiful Red Waco Biplane.
As a Certified Flight Instructor on the Outer Banks of North Carolina I am pleased to say that when you fly with me you will be sure to have fun, be safe and learn to fly!