Location: The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located on Cape Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Cape Hatteras Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, an area frequently travelled by ships throughout history. This route is referred to as “the graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the large number of vessels that have run aground due to shifting sandbars created by the Gulf Stream and the colder water of the Labrador current. The most famous ship to run aground near Cape Hatteras Island was the Civil Warship, USS Monitor. In order to address this problem, Congress authorized the building of a lighthouse near the shoreline.
History: In July 1797, Congress set aside $44,000 for the building of a lighthouse on Cape Hatteras Island as well as a lighted beacon to facilitate safe travel for ships near the Harbor of Ocracoke in North Carolina. The construction was started and completed in 1803. The original lighting system of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse consisted of 18 lamps with 14-inch reflectors. Still, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse only stood a miniscule 112 feet above sea level. According to USN LT. David D. Porter, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was virtually ineffective in its original construction. The steamer ships that ran the shipping line at night had brighter lights than the lighthouse and were often mistaken by other ship captains as the lighthouse beacon, drawing large ships closer to shore and into the breakers that eventually ran them aground.
For additional historical information pertaining to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, please click here to read our blog post about the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse