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Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is celebrated

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the National Park Service celebrated the 150th anniversary of the lighting of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The historic day was Dec. 16, 1870.

Some 150 years later, around 4:45 in the early evening, a remarkable video aired on Dare County’s Current TV channel.

The premiere of the almost 40-minute presentation was exciting. Due to inclement weather, a previously filmed illumination of the Cape Hatteras light started the video.

A welcome was extended by David Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina. He said the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse “may be the most iconic lighthouse in the world.”

Hallac called the lighthouse a symbol of three national values: dedication, community and ingenuity.

The lighthouse symbolizes the national dedication to marine safety. From 1870 to 1935, some 83 lighthouse keepers kept the light lit in hot, humid summer days, cold winter days, and hurricane winds. Those keepers were surrounded and supported by families and Hatteras Islanders.

The 1870 lighthouse construction was an amazing engineering feat, said Hallac, who reminded those viewing that the 9.6 million pound lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet in 23 days in 1999. The feat was called “the move of the century.”

Robert L. Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, intoned “there is no greater symbol of our strength and perseverance than the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.” The symbol is recognized around the world.

Capt. Matt Baer, commander of United States Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, reminded watchers that the Coast Guard maintains the automated light atop the lighthouse. He said the Coast Guard will transition the light to LED technology.

Jonathan Polk, Cape Hatteras National Seashore interpretive ranger, provided details. The lighthouse at 198.5 feet is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. Its flash is every 7.5 seconds.

Actor Joseph Smith portrayed Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788-1827), inventor of the lens technology that sends the Cape Hatteras light beam out 20 nautical miles.

Kevin Duffus, author and documentary filmmaker, named the light “America’s Lighthouse.” He covered the history of the two world wars that visited the lighthouse; an 1886 earthquake; the 14-year long abandonment starting in 1936; the pirates’ jamboree; and the move.

Danny Couch was the voice of islanders. “It is our symbol.” He said this was the place to go for swimming, surfing and fishing. He described a clear night with a multitude of stars and the sweep of the light. “It’s just a picture that cannot be duplicated….”

Bett Padgett, president of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, gave testimony to the importance of community members caring about its historic treasures as she described campaigns to take care of Outer Banks lighthouses.

Agencies thanked include Outer Banks Forever, Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, Dare County and CURRENT TV.

Board member of the lighthouse society John Havel has created a photographic history of the lighthouse’s storied history. Some 57 photos represent almost every decade of the past 150 years. This is exhibit titled 150 Years of Light, a Photographic Tribute, is on display at the Eastern National Bookstore in the Lighthouse District in Buxton.

And, Dare Arts Council has selected artists’ renditions of the lighthouse for a Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Virtual Art Show. The art exhibit is accessible at darearts.org/hatteras150.

For the link to the video presentation, go to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Facebook page.

At the conclusion of the presentation, pictures of Happy Birthday greetings came from these lighthouses across the United States: Alcatraz; Bodie Island; Cape Lookout; Currituck Light; Fort Point Light, San Francisco; Apostle Island Light; Loggerhead Lighthouse, Dry Tortugas National Park; Oak Island Lighthouse; Point Bonita Light, Golden Gate; Sandy Hook Lighthouse; Thomas Point Shoal; Fire Island; Lighthouse 80, Fort Washington, Maryland; Cape St. George Light; Roanoke River Light; Charleston Light; Buffalo Lighthouse; Edenton State Historic Site; San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico; Boca Chita Lighthouse, Biscayne; West Quoddy Head Light, Maine; Cockspur Island; Seahorse Key Light Station, Fla.; Roanoke Marshes, NC; Bald Head Island; Jupiter Inlet; Ocracoke Light; Sitka Light, Alaska.

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