CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. -- The waters surrounding the Outer Banks bear
the fitting epithet "graveyard of the Atlantic."
It is here that more than 2,000 ships have been lost since the
early 1700s, prompting President Washington and Congress to provide
legislation for the erection of several lighthouses to help correct
The Outer Banks are home to four of the original lighthouses in
the 1789 legislation: Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, Ocracoke and
Currituck.The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which, at 208 feet, is the
tallest in the U.S., is the second of three erected on the cape.
The original structure was built in 1794 and became badly damaged
during the Civil War.
The second lighthouse was erected in 1869. It was abandoned in
1935 and promptly vandalized. A temporary lighthouse was built of
steel in 1936 for use during repairs to the earlier structure.
The present lighthouse became fully operational again in 1950
and has just been moved 1,600 feet inland to prevent damage from
erosion. A relighting ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 4, and
reopening for Memorial Day 2000.
Also included in the move were both keeper's quarters buildings.
A temporary visitor's center is open between the two sites from 9
a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Along the viewing path are
Hatteras Island Visitor CenterThe Bodie Island Lighthouse was originally built in 1847 and
rebuilt 12 years later with improvements. During the Civil War,
Confederate troops destroyed the structure to prevent its use by
Union forces occupying the Outer Banks.
Phone: (252) 995-4474
National Park Service
Phone: (252) 473-2111
In 1872, the third and present structure became operational, and
-- except for a mishap in which a flock of wild geese flew into the
lantern, causing severe damage -- the tower has been illuminated
Because this lighthouse is still operated by the U.S. Coast
Guard, it is not open for climbing, but the keeper's quarters are
open year-round as a visitor's center. A nature walk through the
surrounding marsh is available.
Bodie Island Visitors Center
Phone: (252) 441-5711The Ocracoke Lighthouse, with the oldest operational guide beam
in North Carolina, is built near where Blackbeard the pirate once
lived. Legend has it that Ocracoke got its name from the events
leading up to the capture of the area's most notorious
In 1718, the English Crown put a price on Blackbeard's head, and
Lt. Robert Maynard took up the challenge. On the night before what
was to be Blackbeard's final battle, he was heard to cry
repeatedly, "O cock, crow!" in hopes that dawn would come sooner
and he could make his getaway.
Dawn did not come soon enough: Blackbeard was captured and
eventually beheaded.Brightening the last dark spot of the North Carolina coast is
Currituck Beach Lighthouse, operational since 1875. To distinguish
itself from other regional lighthouses, the structure was left
unpainted in natural brick red.
When the lighthouse became automated, the lands surrounding it
were left in ruin. In 1980, concerned with the preservation of the
property, the Outer Banks Conservationists signed a lease to take
responsibility for restoring the keeper's house.
With restorations ongoing, a smaller building on the grounds
operates as a museum shop. The lighthouse is open to the public for
climbing, weather permitting, with a nominal fee charged to help
with the restoration and maintenance of the compound. It is open
daily from Easter to Thanksgiving.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Phone: (252) 453-4939