400 tons and 150 feet or so later...
May 4, 2016 8:19 PM   Subscribe

they moved the lighthouse. The Gay Head lighthouse dates to 1796, has been the scene of horrific wrecks, and is in the major motion picture Jaws.
posted by vrakatar (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I see someone watched NOVA tonight, too. ;)

What's not to love about big engineering projects like this? The biggest surprise for me was that the lighthouse was/is still being used for navigation. I've been under the impression that lighthouses in the US were pretty much done, thanks to GPS.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:50 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

The guy who basically invented the process a century ago and used it to move an 800-ton house up a cliff was even more mind-boggling.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:29 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been under the impression that lighthouses in the US were pretty much done, thanks to GPS.

Nope. If the navigational system were being set up today, then sure, there wouldn't be as many lights and buoys. But things like range lights are still really useful (if light A lines up with light B, you're on the right course for the harbor entrance), and lights don't depend on you remembering to charge your cellphone before hopping in your boat to do some salmon fishing.

Also, tradition is a big deal in the maritime community. People like their old lighthouses. So plenty of lighthouses continue to be used as navigational markers, although few of them continue to operate the old Fresnel lenses. Most working lighthouses use a modern LED, either in the lantern room or mounted on the balcony outside.

Among those that still use the original Fresnel lens is Point Bonita, just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. In that picture, you can see the 2nd-order lens clearly inside the lantern room.

Anyway, sometimes when the Coast Guard decides they no longer want to keep a lighthouse in use for navigation, other people will take it over and operate it as a private aid to navigation, like Umpqua River Light, which is managed by the county (although it still belongs to the Coast Guard).

Sometimes the entire lighthouse gets transferred, like North Head Lighthouse, which now belongs to the State of Washington.
posted by suelac at 10:55 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Good overview, suelac, FPP-worthy on its own.

I had to try and find out approximately what my own house weighs, and felt vindicated when Google autocompleted the search for me. It's not just me who wants to know!
posted by Harald74 at 12:28 AM on May 5, 2016

I saw this on Nova tonight. Great post!
posted by persona au gratin at 12:57 AM on May 5, 2016

they moved the lighthouse.


...sorry, wrong movie.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:00 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

1902 saw the replacement of the brick keeper’s cottage with a wooden structure after a number of unexplained illness and deaths had occurred in the brick dwelling.


Also, have the mods been unusually active here, or is everybody being a grownup? Come on. Seamen. Cruising. Going down. I CAN'T BE THE ONLY ONE.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:32 AM on May 5, 2016

I was once marginally involved in a smaller version of something historical like this. Marginally, since my offices had been in the structure. The Castleman-Bull House in Austin was donated to the city under the condition they would move it elsewhere. The seven block trip next to the new convention center went partially right down the middle of 6th Street. This of course became an impromptu, exceedingly slow-moving parade with Leslie providing the entertainment...
posted by jim in austin at 5:01 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this! Gay Head is one of my all-time favorite beaches, and I had no idea this was happening.
posted by archimago at 5:11 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

This isn't even the first major lighthouse move this company (International Chimney Corp. of Buffalo), in 1999 they moved Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (193 feet, 4,830 tons) 2,900 feet because of shoreline erosion.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:37 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I was going to mention Cape Hatteras, it's a pretty famous job. Now belongs to the National Park Service, by the way. I'm not sure what the status of the Cape Hatteras light itself is, but you can check it by looking at the Light List, which provides an updated list of all the official (and regulated private) navigational aids in the country.

Good overview, suelac, FPP-worthy on its own. Heh. I should have linked my previously.
posted by suelac at 9:26 AM on May 5, 2016

Cape Hatteras Light is still active.
posted by bradf at 11:33 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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