Teetering on the brink: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Since 1870, the tallest lighthouse in the nation has watched over what is known as "the graveyard of the Atlantic" on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current converge. Today, the rough waters that have swallowed ships throughout the centuries are threatening the lighthouse itself.
The 208-foot structure was 1,500 feet from the shore in 1870, when it replaced an inadequate 95-foot tower that stood for 67 years, according to Andrew Kling of the National Park Service. Today, the ocean has whittled that distance to just 150 feet.
Kling says the National Park Service has set April 1999 as a target date for moving the lighthouse to safer ground. The project, which includes relocating the keeper's quarters and out-buildings, is expected to cost as much as $15 million.
The lighthouse is open to the public daily from Easter weekend until Columbus Day in mid-October, when visitors are allowed to climb the 262 steps to the top. The visitor center at Cape Hatteras National Seashore is open every day except Christmas.