With tours of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at the national seashore of the same name set to begin for the season April 15, a guide has arrived to help you better appreciate your visit.
Put together by Kevin McCabe, a Buxton, North Carolina resident, the accordian-style guide provides information on local history, sites that can be seen from the top of the lighthouse, and points of interest in the immediate area.
"Last year I did a very interesting survey on Hatteras Island," Mr. McCabe said in explaining his motivation to create the guide, The Ultimate Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Climbing Guide & Points of Interest Map. "I discovered that nearly 60 percent of the people that visited the island from April through September said they were going to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. With that number in mind, I thought it would be great if I could enhance their lighthouse climbing experience. I designed the climbing guide to do just that."
The $2.95 guide provides interesting facts about the lighthouse -- for example, not only are there 257 steps in it, but 1,250,000 bricks went into its construction and the working light flashes every 7.5 seconds -- and also explains what you can see while walking around the platform at the top of the light.
Mr. McCabe also points to where you can see the Diamond Shoals that are notorious navigational hazards for ships, where the old U.S. Life-Saving Service Station once stood, and where a World War II British Cemetery is located on Hatteras Island.
Also within the guide is a history on the lighthouse, mention of nearby activities such as wind surfing and kite boarding, birding, surfing, and fishing, and basic national seashore information. There's also a map that points to various highlights of Hatteras Island, such as Cape Point, where a Croatoan Indian village once stood, Buxton Woods, where there once was a "haulover" site from the Pamlico Sond to the Atlantic Ocean, and other sites.
As for the lighthouse tours, the first day of climbing for the coming summer is set for Friday, April 15. Climbing hours will be 9 a.m. -- 4:30 p.m. daily in the spring and fall; and 9
a.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 27 through Labor Day, Monday, September 5. The lighthouse will remain open through Columbus Day, Monday, October 10. Tickets are required.
Climbing tickets are $7 for adults and $3.50 for senior citizens (62 or older), children (12 and under, and at least 42" tall), and those holding a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Pass. Tickets are available on a first come/first served basis and can only be purchased in-person at the site the day of the climb. There are no advance ticket sales for climbing tours.
Ticket sales begin at 8:15 a.m. Climbing tours will begin at 9 a.m. and will run every 10 minutes, with a limit of 30 visitors per tour. Ticket sales close at 4:30 p.m. in the spring and fall, and 5:30 p.m. May 27, 2011 through Labor Day. Ticket holders should arrive at the lighthouse gate five minutes prior to their ticketed tour time.
Residents of the Outer Banks' communities are being offered a chance to climb the lighthouse at no charge on April 15. On this day only, free tickets will be available on a first
come/first served basis and can only be obtained in-person at the site the day of the climb. This fee-free day applied to park visitors as well.
Built in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast. Offshore of Cape Hatteras, the Gulf Stream collides with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador Current from Canada. This current forces southbound ships into a dangerous 12-mile long sandbar called Diamond Shoals. Hundreds and possibly thousands of shipwrecks in this area have given it the reputation as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."
In 1999, after years of study and debate, the Cape Hatteras Light Station was moved
to its present location. The lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet in 23 days and now lies 1,500 feet from the shore -- its original distance from the sea.
The National Park Service maintains the lighthouse and the keepers' quarters. The U.S. Coast Guard operates and maintains the automated light. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/caha .